J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot to Release 'Star Trek Beyond' for Cinerama-Like Barco Escape (Exclusive)

Star Trek Beyond Trailer grab - H 2015
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Moviegoers will get a panoramic view of the Enterprise this summer on Cinerama-like Barco Escape theatrical screens.

J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot has closed a deal with digital cinema technology developer Barco whereby Bad Robot, Paramount and Skydance will release a special version of Star Trek Beyond for Barco Escape, a theatrical system aimed at immersing viewers in the experience with three screens stitched together across the front and side walls of a theater. The film, which opens July 22, will be a high-profile release for the young Escape format.

"When you're on the bridge of the Enterprise, you might see additional coverage of the bridge," Bad Robot producer and head of visual effects and post Ben Rosenblatt told The Hollywood Reporter. "Or you might see the Enterprise coming across the screen — and maybe you'll see more and the attacking forces. There are new ships and antagonists that are well suited to the expanded image."

For this version, Bad Robot will be remastering the film, with certain sections of the movie expanding to reach out across the panoramic tri-screen display — "at least 20 minutes, hopefully more," said Rosenblatt.

Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin and J.J. Abrams, who directed the first two films in the franchise reboot, will be leading the creative, which will be a cooperative effort between Bad Robot’s in-house VFX unit, Kelvin Optical; the film’s lead VFX house, Double Negative; and VFX house Atomic Fiction.

Since the film already had been shot when the deal was completed, the expansion of the imagery into the side wall screens will be, in some parts, fully CG extensions of the VFX shots. Rosenblatt said some shots will incorporate production footage that wasn’t used in the wide-release version, while others would be a combination of production footage modified with VFX.

"Justin Lin’s Star Trek Beyond is an epic adventure — truly larger than life,” said Abrams in a statement. “It is especially fitting, then, that we are partnering with Barco to provide an ultra wide-screen immersive experience using their unique Barco Escape format. This premium format dramatically expands the width of the viewing plane, giving filmmakers an innovative new tool with which to tell stories and audiences an enhanced new way to experience cinema."

"In general, on the Bad Robot side, we're very interested in emerging technologies and new formats that offer innovation in the theatrical experience," said Rosenblatt. "We love seeing movies in a theatrical environment. When someone is trying something new that could help the theatrical experience, we want to support it. And Barco Escape is the latest example of something that could transform the way we think about going to the movies in a theater."

Further demonstrating its interest in the format, Abrams, Rosenblatt or another Bad Robot exec will join the Escape advisory board. "We're talking with Barco about creating a short through Bad Robot to really use the capabilities of the format and show it off," Rosenblatt added, noting that it's also considering the format for additional feature releases.

Barco expects to have roughly 50 Escape-equipped theater installations in time for the Star Trek Beyond release. Looking further out, it projects at least 100 by the end of the year, and 3,000 in next three to five years.

Barco Escape's three-screen theater configuration (Photo: Adam Hendershott)

Escape was introduced in 2014 with Twentieth Century Fox's The Maze Runner, which included the expanded tri-screen imagery in seven minutes of the film, at a handful of supported theaters. As part of a multi-year deal with Fox, that was followed by Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, which incorporated 20 minutes in the Escape format.

In 2015, Barco announced a development deal with Jerry Bruckheimer, who also sits on the Escape Advisory Board. And earlier this year, it was announced that Scott Waugh, the director behind Act of Valor and Need for Speed, would make a film shot entirely for Barco Escape. A late 2016 release is planned for that untitled movie.

Barco will demonstrate Escape this week at theater-owners convention CinemaCon.