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Cinema 5 enhances experience

Out with the old: The Washington Square Mall Cinema 5 has changed over to all digital movies. Photo by - Brian Basham1 / 3
Matt Olson of Odyssey Theaters works on installing one of the new digital movie projectors in Washington Square Mall Cinema 5 last week. Photo by - Brian Basham2 / 3
One of Cinema 5's old film projectors. These projectors are about 60 years old. Odyssey Theaters is replacing 55 total screens throughout all of their theaters with new digital projectors. The projector Olson is working on costs about $65,000. Photo by - Brian Basham3 / 3

There's nothing quite like the smell of popcorn and the excitement of the big screen on a Friday or Saturday night.

Now, that experience is being magnified at the Washington Square Mall Cinema 5, as the entire theater has gone digital.

Starting last week, each auditorium was transformed into a high definition amphitheater as the old 35-millemeter film projectors were unhooked and the new, digital projectors were installed.

And with the flick of a switch, the whole movie experience in Detroit Lakes was enhanced.

"It's capable of 35 trillion color variations on the screen," said Gary Westmark, vice president of operations for Cinemagic Theatre, the company that the theater operates under. "And no matter how many times this plays, whether it's the first time or the 100th time, it's going to be a crystal clear presentation."

That means no more scratches, no more dust and no more little lines shooting across the screen due to film wear and tear.

Not only are the visuals capable of producing its share of "oohs" and "aahs," but a newly installed surround sound system is designed to pull the viewer right into the action.

"The sound really brings them into the movie so that it's much more of an experience," said Westmark, who says the old, single speaker that was once hidden behind the screen is being replaced by three. Speakers are also being added on both sides of the auditoriums.

Theater No. 3 just may be the most popular though, as its 3-D capabilities certainly make it "pop out" from the rest.

"It's absolutely amazing," said Westmark. "I think people are driving a ways just to get 3-D and now I don't think there's a better experience than what you can get right here."

The 3-D movies will be $2 more than the others to cover the theater's additional costs -- and yes, those glasses. They will be handed out at the box office.

FYI -- "Finding Nemo" will be the theater's first 3-D movie, which opened in 3-D last Friday.

The move to digital is one that is essentially required for theaters now, as 35-millemeter is slowly being phased out. In fact, next year Westmark suspects theater operators won't even be able to find film.

"It is sad to see 35 mm go away -- it's almost an eerie sound to not hear the clatter of the old projector. You just hear the hum of the new machine," said the company's president, Steve Tripp, who has been in the industry for 36 years. "But, the picture is just so nice."

Tripp says although theater operators are essentially having their hands forced to make the switch, it is necessary to keep the industry moving forward.

Although right now theaters are receiving the movies on hard drives that they install into the digital projector, by the end of the year, they will receive them via satellite, essentially opening up even more possibilities.

"It removes barriers," said Tripp. "With satellite feeds, you have the opportunity to do things like live concerts."

Tripp says currently there are no plans to do those sorts of things in a small market like Detroit Lakes, but what isn't out of the question is bringing a big, local sporting event to the big screen.

"Like if DL would make it to the dome for the championship, if they could get a feed, it is theoretically possible to broadcast it here for those who can't drive all the way down to see it in person," said Tripp, adding that "special showings" are also possible because DVD's can now be projected onto the big screen as well.

"If somebody local made a film, traditionally it's been a barrier for local producers to get a 35mm film made -- just one would cost $8,000 or $10,000," said Tripp. "Now it's just getting a DVD made."

Since buying the movie theater last year, Cinemagic personnel have dropped ticket prices, gotten credit card machines, updated equipment and are currently working on getting new seating and possibly even working with the mall to expand their space.

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