MOUNT VERNON — Local movie goers are seeing things more clearly these days.
Keeping up with industry trends, Premier Theatres recently completed conversion of its seven screens to all-digital projection. The reign of 35mm cellulose film, which endured more than a century and spanned Hollywood’s golden years, is coming to an end.
The $1 million plus changeover at Premier’s Upper Gilchrest Road theaters was made in just under three days and includes not only a new projection system but new sound towers, speakers and screens as well. Three of the seven theaters are equipped with silver screens that are both 3D and 2D compliant, while the remaining four have new white screens for films shown in the traditional 2D format.
For general manager Melinda Levings and her staff, the conversion was intimidating at first, but they are proud of the end result.
“We’ve had a lot of favorable comments,” Levings said. “I’m not really computer savvy, but we’re starting to get comfortable with the new system and it is very user friendly. For our customers, it’s like the difference between old television and High Definition TV: The picture is much sharper and the colors really jump out at you.”
Where 35mm prints were prone to wear and tear that affected picture and sound quality, digitized movies should remain like-new in quality all the way from their first-run premier to the dollar theaters. The new equipment also requires less upkeep than finicky film projectors, and splicing broken film is becoming a lost art.
Premier has also upgraded for 3D productions from flimsy plastic disposables to more comfortable glasses that contain computer chips and are activated by a signal from the projection booth.
Premier Theatres opened its Mount Vernon location in the fall of 1999 and is owned by United Entertainment Corporation (UEC), a family-operated business based in St. Cloud, Minnesota. UEC owns 14 theaters with 124 screens in nine states. Its other Ohio theaters are in Cambridge and Norwalk.
Levings has been with the company since 2000, and is in Norwalk today to assist with training for the new digital equipment that is about to go into service there.