'Hobbit' amazes viewers after hitch

ROBIN RAYMOND
Last updated 13:34 13/12/2012
Steve Ward
Robin Raymond

Impressed: Film fans Steve and Janet Ward said they felt part of the film after watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 48fps 3D in Blenheim yesterday

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Top Town Cinemas managing director Duncan Mackenzie had to go on his own unexpected journey to find the one key to unlock The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey before the movie opened in Blenheim yesterday.

A 10am screening of the film in the world-first format of 48 frames-per-second had to be cancelled when security protecting the movie from piracy proved too hard to crack.

Mr Mackenzie said tight security around the movie meant each copy could be played only on a single specific projector once a digital key code had been entered.

But someone had sent the wrong key for the Marlborough movie.

"What we had was about as useful as two bits of Sellotape, in fact probably less so for getting something on the screen," he said.

The key codes are issued by an office in the United States and the time difference had also caused some confusion when he called to sort the problem, he said.

"It was the middle of the night there and they were all ‘What's the rush?' because over there it doesn't open till the 14th and it was only the 11th so they were saying you've got three days.

"I said ‘That's all well and good for you, but here it's the 12th and we're opening'."

Fortunately, ticket holders were understanding and the film went ahead in the 2D version at 11.30 and in the high speed 3D version at 1.30pm.

Moviegoers were overwhelmingly positive about the high speed experience, describing it as "amazing" and "brilliant".

Blenheim woman Janet Ward said: "It was absolutely realistic, you felt like you were part of the movie."

She and her husband Steve Ward took the day off work to see the film. They had gone to the midnight screenings of each of the Lord of the Rings films and Mr Ward said the visual effects in The Hobbit were a step up.

"It's pretty incredible what they have done."

John Bartlett agreed, saying he thought the film was better than the Lord of the Rings trilogy, while Tyler Bartlett, 16, said the special effects were "amazing", especially for the computer generated character Gollum.

Gremlins also thwart Hobbit's high-frame rate launch in Nelson

State Cinema's much-anticipated launch of The Hobbit was thwarted by Murphy's Law, with the Nelson theatre's brand new projector crippled by a fault.

Movie-goers turned up at midnight on Tuesday to experience the film's much-publicised high-frame rate, only to discover the cinema's new projector was out of action.

The cinema has just completed a half-a-million-dollar refurbishment, with cinema one stripped back to its shell and fitted with stadium seating, a bigger screen with the highest screen definition available in the world, improved sound and seating with more leg room.

Cinema director Mark Christensen said when staff went to fire up the new projector on Tuesday morning, ahead of the day's Skyfall screenings, a "rather innocuous" error message came up.

It turned out to be a major fault with the brand-new projector's light engine, which was like the "heart" of the machine, and it was "not just a matter of rebooting it".

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Mr Christensen said the projector from Japan was being replaced by another one under warranty, and the problem was not related to its high-frame rate capability.

"Murphy is at play. It was completely out of the blue.

"We've had it for three months, operating with no problems at all. It's just one of those things."

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened at State Cinema with two sold-out midnight matinees on Tuesday.

Cinemas two and three screened non-high-frequency versions of the film.

The Hobbit was filmed at a rate of 48 frames per second, which Mr Christensen said made everything look clearer and was "a bit like removing the pops and scratches from a vinyl record".

"We were obviously extremely disappointed that we couldn't present the opening night with a high-frequency version, but everyone was very good about it."

Mr Christensen said cinema one should be back up and running today or tomorrow.

The cinema's movie schedule was expected to be "back to normal" by the weekend.

 

- The Marlborough Express

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