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Cinemark Helena and XD opens its doors Friday to three new movie auditoriums featuring the latest in digital projection and sound technology.

“It’s a next generation theater concept,” said Cinemark marketing manager Madelyn Rybczyk, as she led a tour of the theater complex, which was still getting finishing touches on sidewalk installation, painting and cleaning Wednesday afternoon.

Cinemark’s new XD Cinema auditorium features a state-of-the art 7.1 Dolby surround sound system, she said, and a crisper brighter image with its new XD or Extreme Digital technology.

“The 7.1 Dolby surround sound literally surrounds you,” she explained. And the new Barco DL Projector “shows you a much brighter and crisper image on screen. The surround sound pulls you in from the first scene — because the picture is so clear and the sound is so rich and full.”

Helena Cinemark in the Great Northern Town Center offers the only XD auditorium in Montana, she added. “The XD auditorium is an experience that cannot be duplicated elsewhere in Montana.”

Cinemark offers 2D and Real 3D crisp, clear projection technology on the new wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor screens, she said.

Two of the new auditoriums each seat 136, while the XD auditorium seats 300, bringing the total number of seats to 1,895 in the 11-auditorium complex.

All of the auditoriums in the complex can show both 2D and 3D films, she added.

The three new auditoriums offer high-back, plush leather stadium seating, allowing an unobstructed view of the screen, she said, and the arm rests can lift to become a love seat for couples. New wider aisles allow more space for people to pass through the rows to their seats, and the XD auditorium seats are rocker chairs.

The new high-tech auditoriums come just in time to screen this fall’s expected blockbusters like the second “Hobbit” movie, “Desolation of Smaug,” “Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” and “Thor.”

While an IR article in March estimated the cost of the expansion project at $7 million, no cost figures were available from Rybczyk Wednesday evening. Nor was any information available on what films will be the first ones appearing this weekend on the big screens.

The theater will continue to book mainstream films in Helena, Rybczyk said, “but now we’ll have a unique platform for showing them. I don’t think our expansion will be changing that. Changing our product is not likely.”

While the concession area is expected to expand, there was no information available on whether there will be any new food or beverage offerings.

The XD and 3-D movies will charge a ticket premium price; adult evening movie tickets are regularly $8.25, while XD adult tickets are $11.25 and XD 3D adult tickets are $13.25.

Cinemark is located at 750 Great Northern Blvd., 422-4225, or online at http://www.cinemark.com/theatre-detail.aspx?node_id=1591.

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