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Marquis Theater to bring cutting-edge 3-D technology to the big screen

MIDDLEBURY — Bill Shafer’s business plan for Middlebury’s Marquis Theater will come into sharper focus at the end of this month, when he is scheduled to own and operate a specialized digital movie projection systems that he said will take 3-D viewing to the next level.
The new system, which comes at a cost of around $100,000, involves a digital projector (to replace the conventional 35 millimeter film system) that will interact with sophisticated “active shutter glasses” that will be distributed to customers lining up for the ever increasing number of 3-D movies hitting the screen these days.
“I think people will like our system better” than the current 3-D viewing experience in other theaters, Shafer said.
Shafer noted most movie screens in the U.S. still use 35-millimeter projection technology. The 35mm system, Shafer explained, involves massive loops of film on a platform that gradually get fed into a projector. Manipulating vast streams of film can at times lead to technical or mechanical snafus.
“There is an inherent weave in the film,” Shafer said. “The old technology still works great, but digital will open up a lot of opportunities.”
In essence, the digital system will allow films to be projected onto the big screen from a DVD, as is now routine in the music and television industries.
“(The movie industry) has been the last holdout,” Shafer said. “It has been because of the expense and pirating.”
He explained that movie studios have finally agreed on standards aimed at preventing pirating of movies from digital projectors.
“Each digital projector gets its own particular print that is encrypted for that projector,” Shafer said, noting that movie copies will bear watermarks, and serial numbers intended for play on specific projectors.
Shafer said the new digital projector — which he expects to have installed by July 30 — will function hand-in-hand with some revolutionary glasses made by the XpanD company. These battery-powered, active-shutter glasses use a fast-switching liquid crystal cell, called the “pi-cell,” as a shutter to alternately block each eye as the viewer focuses on the 3-D image.
This new technology, according to Shafer, offers the best possible 3-D viewing experience and has been shown to minimize chances for the headaches and blurred vision that some people experience with current 3-D viewing, which uses polarized glasses to create depth perception and a separation of images on a screen.
Of course, the XpanD glasses come at a far greater cost (around $150 a pop) than polarized glasses, and Shafer will take efforts to protect his investment. Ushers will diligently ensure the return of the sophisticated specs at the end of 3-D movies.
The Marquis will also maintain 35mm projectors to ensure its ability to show all kinds of films into the future, Shafer stressed.
People should know that the XpanD glasses will only work with the Marquis system, according to Shafer, so pilfering a pair wouldn’t be of much benefit.
The new 3-D system is the latest of several upgrades Shafer has made to the Marquis since acquiring it around three years ago. He has given it a general facelift and a third screen, among other things. Shafer has also opened the space up to occasional musical performances.
And Shafer anticipates the new 3-D technology at the theater will not only extend to movies, but video gaming. Plans call for a screen at the Marquis to be occasionally rented out for video gamers, who will be able to battle virtual foes in 3-D. The theater will also be able to host PowerPoint presentations using the three-dimensional technology, according to Shafer.
“Two or three years from now, you are going to be able to walk in to your average theater and be able to watch the Super Bowl on the screen, in 3-D, along with Red Sox ballgames, concerts,” Shafer said. “It’s all coming.”
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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