The three-auditorium expansion at Cinemark 8 in downtown Helena will feature one of the cinema company’s largest and most cutting-edge screens.
The new XD, or Extreme Digital Cinema, concave screen will be the largest in the complex and will stretch from floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall, James Meredith, a spokesperson for Cinemark Theatres, said Wednesday.
The Extreme Digital Cinema auditorium will also feature a 7.1 digital surround sound system, plush seating and the screen will be able to play films in both 2D and 3D, Meredith said.
“From a technology standpoint, it’s the best way to watch movies,” he said. “We’ve created an environment that can’t be replicated at home.”
Meredith did not have the seating capacity of the three new theaters immediately available, but he said they will be larger than the auditoriums already in the complex.
In addition to the three new auditoriums, the project also includes an expansion of the existing cinema lobby and concession area.
The three new auditoriums are expected to be finished by September, Meredith said, and work on the lobby and concession area should be done by mid-October, just in time for the busy holiday movie season.
With the additional screens, Meredith said that the theater will be able to screen more films and offer more alternative content such as opera screenings, sporting events and concerts.
Cinemark is also launching rereleases of classic films such as, “The Godfather,” “Casablanca,” “Forrest Gump” and others, which will allow a new generation of film buffs a chance to see those classics as they were originally intended to be seen — in a theater, Meredith said.
All told, the expansion, which includes a refinance of the existing theater complex, will cost about $7 million, said Alan Nicholson, the developer behind the property and the Great Northern Town Center as a whole.
Nicholson has an affinity for film, reaching back to his childhood days in the small eastern Montana town of Roundup, where he lived for the Saturday matinees at the town’s one-screen movie theater, he said Wednesday.
He recalls watching stars such as Roy Rogers, Tom Mix and Gene Autry, as well as productions featuring the Lone Ranger and Flash Gordon.
Despite that childhood connection to Hollywood, Nicholson said he does not keep up with the Oscars.
“No, I’m not too interested in the Oscars — unless I’m up for one,” he said with a chuckle. “We’re just pleased that the Cinemark has the faith in Helena to add this theater. I just hope that the theater business gets better all the time.”
Part of why Cinemark is on board with the expansion and the XD screen, Meredith said, is that Helena has such a high number of theater-goers.
“That’s the reason why we’re putting it (the Extreme Digital Cinema) in our theater in Helena,” he said.
Reporter Eddie Gregg: 447-4081 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Eddie Gregg on Twitter: @IR_EddieGregg.