By Erika Webb
No matter how much we've left behind in our quest for greater technology, feverishly texting to let the universe know we do indeed still need our thumbs, a favorite American past time remains solidly in place.
Slipping into the darkness and sliding into chairs, anticipating complete immersion into a story not our own, we welcome the chance to disappear for the better part of two hours, trading the bombardment of sights and sounds "out there" for the respite of sights and sounds that belong to us for that short period of time.
In recent weeks, the buzz around West Volusia County water coolers has been about those escapes, also known as the movies, that now cost $1.50 at "the theaters by Gator's," and will cost less at the Marketplace in Orange City.
During the summer of 1979, the only indoor theater on the west side of the county was showing one movie - The Muppet Movie - over and over and over. Teenagers had to find their entertainment in the parking lot or down the street at the drive-in, which, usually, though not always, required a car. But the area is not an entertainment desert anymore.
Epic Theaters in Deltona opened in December. Featuring 12 stadium-seating auditoriums, complete with leatherette rocking chair love seats and equipped with Digital Light Processing projection, 6 Real-D 3D silver screens and Dolby sound, the theaters also boast family bathrooms, gourmet refreshments and a game room. The 50,000-square-foot cineplex along North Normandy Boulevard off of East Graves Avenue also contains two big-screen concept auditoriums, called Epic XL, with 69-foot screens and stadium seating for 400. Epic's total seating capacity is 2,400.
Marketplace 8 on Saxon Boulevard closed in August. Liebe Entertainment, which owned it and two other theaters in Florida, stated, "We would like to thank all of the patrons who have supported our theatre since the opening three years ago. Unfortunately, due to the competitive nature of the business, we can no longer continue to operate the theatre."
But Orlando-based Colonial Six plans to reopen the eight-screen theater soon, showing new movies, according to a company spokesman.
The ticket price for matinees will be $5 and tickets for evening showings will be $6 for adults, discounted to $5 for children, students, seniors and military personnel.
The name DeMarsh has been synonymous with movie theaters in these parts for over 30 years, providing an alternative to the big chain cinemas. Developer Frank DeMarsh, president of EPIC Theaters, was definitely thinking "bigger picture" when he began to plan for the cinema on a 130-acre portion of a 900-acre site, near the I-4 interchange with State Road 472, designated for the long-envisioned Southwest Volusia Activity Center. In 2008, Mr. DeMarsh revealed plans to build Deltona Village - a retail, office and multi-living community complex. The recession waylaid those plans.
Epic vice president Clint DeMarsh said the family's cinematic legacy began on a farm in western Pennsylvania, where his grandfather erected a movie screen in a field and opened a drive-in theater.
"Yes, it's passed down but we do love movies, Mr. DeMarsh said. "It's a business, but it's also something we really like doing."
Acknowledging light-speed advancements in film technology, Mr. DeMarsh said Deltona's Epic is about to debut the latest - 48 frames per second - upgrade to digital cinema.
"This is big and Deltona will be one of very few, only 200 to 300 theaters in the nation, to feature it. We'll be showing that off in November," he said.
He said 24fps has been the standard for 90 years, even for movies like Avatar and Titanic, which he praised for having "amazing picture quality."
"Now we're going to double that, providing an exceptional picture."
And headache-prone moviegoers take heart.
"Now, each eye will see 24 frames per second, so people who have gotten headaches watching movies, should no longer have them," Mr. DeMarsh said. "It's gonna be the best 3-D ever."
Deltona resident Barbara Hanrahan said though bigger screens and better technology have made movie going "pricey," she has visited Epic on several occasions.
"It's a beautiful theater inside and the stadium seating is nice," she said. "We want to grow the economy in Deltona and it's a great start in that direction."
Mr. DeMarsh said the recent price reduction at Victoria Square Six is a result of the new Epic Theaters having "the lion's share" of area business.
"Victoria was our first newly-built theater in Florida. It's in good condition and very well kept for a 25-year old theater," he said. "One of the salvations there is that we are able to run late-availability movies at a discount."
Mr. DeMarsh said his family appreciates the community's continued patronage of all its movie venues.
"We all went to school here, to DeLand High to Stetson and it's our hometown," he said. "We try to do a good job of bringing Hollywood to our town."
Epic also owns theaters in New Smyrna Beach, Palm Coast, Clermont, St. Augustine, Hendersonville, N.C., and Butler, Pa.