Carmike Goes Digital

Dan writes:

Starting last Friday (March 30th) I noticed a remarkable improvement in the quality of the projected image at the Carmike theatre in Albemarle Square. It seems that one or more of the theatres now have DLP projection equipment and the results are breathtaking.

Lindsay Barnes writes about this very topic in the latest Hook, explaining that, yes, Carmike has gone all digital. I don’t often go to movies, and I’m no film buff, but I did see TMNT on opening night (I’m a child of the 90s, what can I say?) and I have to admit that no difference was obvious to me. Carmike has a website explaining their switch to digital. What I’m excited about, as Barnes explains in his article, is how this will totally revolutionize film distribution, eliminating the costly step of creating prints and shipping around enormous spools, making it possible for independent filmmakers to have their work screened far and wide at zero cost.

17 Responses to “Carmike Goes Digital”


  • I wonder what file format that the film distribution is in. There’s a battle for video supremacy brewing between Microsoft’s Windows Media and Apple’s QuickTime. Balancing the demands of cinephiles (who want great-looking, artifact-free video) and bandwidth (small files to reduce transfer time and throughput cost) makes it a tricky proposition to get that file format right.

  • The Carmike was ruined as a movie destination for me when (years ago) I caught theater staff “double selling” tickets on an almost sold out film, and then having the nerve to give me a hard time when I requested a cash refund because I (and my friends) didn’t want to sit in the front row.

    I would think none the staff from that incident were still around, but the incident has always colored the business negatively in my mind ever since.

  • Has the fact that a fully-grown Waldo went to the opening-freaking-night Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flick been lost on everyone?

    I’m not that much older than you, dude, but … jeez.

    I feel like there’s something I’m not in on …

  • When I was 11, in 1989, there was nothing in the world that was cooler than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The comic, then the TV show, then the action figures and then, topping it off, the original movie. (Not so much the movie soundtrack.) I wasn’t about to miss the new movie. :)

  • I would like to think that this will open up more interesting ways of getting people into theaters. I for one would pay to see certain television shows on the big screen, especially if it was part of a greater package. I can imagine it would be a lot of fun to go see certain episodes of Battlestar Galactica, for instance. Right now, I’m watching episodes of Life On Mars, which really screams out to be shown on the big screen.

  • Yep … I was just old enough to not get into it then, and just old enough to try to keep my own little ones from getting into now! (Nothing messes with your Saturday like trying to keep a 5 year old from Ninja-ing a 3 year old – except the vice-versa)

    Gotta admit, I would probably catch a Breakfast Club 2, Can’t Buy Me Love 2, or some crap like that … (80s child) if it hit the theaters.

    Can’t believe I just said that.

  • I went to it too, don’t know if it was opening night or not, but I was the same age as Waldo. I rushed home from school to watch the cartoon show daily, which was on at 3:30. Leonardo was my favorite.

  • I can’t say that I’m any kind of an expert on film technology, but I noticed the difference immediately. The titles are perfectly crisp and clear and the black levels are as black as can be. There’s absolutely no jitter in the image, no reel change queues and the theatre is noticeably quieter. I think the surround sound may be clearer as well.

    Perhaps Waldo’s experience with TMNT had something to do with the production quality of the original film. The best results will always be obtained if the source material is digital as well.

    I’d second Sean’s comments here. It would be fun to go to the theatre to see the occasional special event. I’m also hoping that more smaller films will come to Charlottesville as a result of this change.

    Has anyone heard of any plans for Regal to convert their theatres to digital?

  • Well, I have to say that when I was younger, I often went to 4 or 5 films a week in commercial theatres. I also ran the student film committee with a large budget for a large university, which provided films four nights a week, and I got to pick them all. Now I go in theatres about once a year. I don’t like waiting in line, don’t like the prices, don’t like the food prices, don’t like sitting with noisy people. I watch films at home on plasma HD, usually pay per view films that I buy for $3.99 and tivo forever. Plus I can drink beer, eat whatever food I like, and pause the film when I have to pee, and replay tricky dialogue parts. Sure beats Carmike and Blockbuster. While the new digital projectors make a great deal of sense, theatres to me are a thing of the past.

  • I saw “Reign Over Me” there and the low-light scenes looked like crap. A big dotty grain. We sat in the second row. I’ll have to see some more “films” there, but I don’t expect any beautifully lighted cinematography to shine through the digital contrast & saturation flatness machine. I did notice the lack of scratches, etc. That told me it was digital projection (Reign Over Me was shot on 35mm film, according to IMDB).

  • I also saw “Reign Over Me” at the Carmike and noted the grainy low light scenes.

    However, I also see scenes like this on my analog TV and wonder if they are an artifact of filming rather than projection.

  • I’d like to see more movies, but I agree with UberXY to a certain extent. Except for me, I don’t go to the cinema anymore because of price. Two adult tickets, plus popcorn, plus a babysitter adds up to around $60 or so, at least. There’s nothing worse than paying $60 to see a movie that may or not be enjoyable. And now that the Jefferson is gone, there’s no low-cost alternative.

    I miss the communal experience, but I also think some people just don’t know how to behave. I remember when I went to see the last Star Trek movie on opening weekend. While waiting for the show to begin, some idiot told the person she was sitting next to the surprise ending.

    I’d like to know if the projectors at the Carmike can handle a live feed. Imagine paying to go see a concert while it’s happening, or a political debate, or any other kind of experience.

  • I hope that the Carmike is doing a better job of making the theaters look better (read: cleaning them) along with trying to make the projected images look better. My wife and I have refused to go back there for the last year or so after noticing too much trash left on the floor, seats and aisles on several visits. We felt like we were sitting in a dumpster.

    Dan L

  • About live performances, look at what the Metropolitan Opera is doing this year:
    http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/broadcast/hd_events.aspx
    The closest movie theater they’re using is in Richmond, I believe.

    About “Reign Over Me” it was even sorta grainy the whole movie; I thought maybe it was the screen, which were sitting so close to. But considering the number of pixels needed for a big screen, and the bankrupt conditions of the theaters, I don’t expect much from digital projection.

  • In answer to Sean’s comments, Carmike Theatres has a digital events page on their website here:

    http://www.carmikedigital.com/events.aspx

    Although there are no events listed at present, they are apparently preparing for this.

  • LOL! We rarely go to the “Theatre” anymore, unless it’s a live performance!

    No, DVDs, low-cost DLP home projectors and a big white wall, with a stereo system (less than $2K setup) and some nice movie-style recliner chairs from ikea ($100 a pop) will be quickly amortized when you have a family and the feeling of liberation and better viewing experience are worth it!

    For a family of five, 40 outings at the movie house will pay for the setup.

  • I used to work at the carmike. the pay sucks and some of the customers is very rude and condesending. mangement is a pain in the backside. to be perfectly honest.

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