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Eden Cinemas to install digital projection, 3D just in time for summer blockbusters

Eden Cinemas has invested over €350,000 in digital technology for three screens at the St Julian's multiplex in time to show the summer 3D blockbusters, Eden Leisure Group managing director Ian De Cesare told The Sunday Times.

The equipment, supplied mainly by Californian-based multinational Master Image, will be installed this week in Eden Cinema's former Imax theatres.

Customers will be able to watch Shrek - For Ever After in 3D the following week. Two other highly anticipated 3D releases over the next few weeks include Toy Story 3 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I.

"The introduction of 3D is a two-step process," Mr De Cesare explained. "Cinemas first have to convert from 35mm to digital projection and then install additional equipment for 3D. We have decided to take these two steps simultaneously. Eden Cinemas had 3D incorporated within Imax technology when it opened the Imax theatre in 2000.

"Digital technology has come to mainstream cinemas over the past six years and 3D followed. Conversion to 3D is an expensive exercise. In the UK, for example, conversion is funded by the Arts Council or through particular companies which then charge the studios for every film.

"3D saves studios money: they do not have to produce the expensive reels anymore as the films are supplied on hard drives and they are shown thanks to digital projectors. Shrek and Toy Story will be fantastic in 3D. Animation gains immensely in 3D, and Master Image technology allows for excellent colour contrast."

Mr De Cesare said although digital technology has been available for some 10 years, relatively few theatres had converted, so prohibitive is the outlay.

Eden Cinemas' decision to invest in 3D was spurred by customer demand. Avatar, the 3D James Cameron blockbuster, was shown in 2D and later followed by Alice in Wonderland, also a 3D release. Mr De Cesare acknowledged many customers would obviously have preferred to watch the films in 3D.

The introduction of 3D at three screens at the Eden Cinemas follows extensive market research. The company was particularly concerned about the significant loss of screen luminosity associated with 3D films.

Master Image's systems were selected as its technology has reduced the loss of light to just 15 per cent. It has also developed lightweight disposable glasses by incorporating the technology in the projection equipment rather than the glasses.

Thanks to Eden Cinemas' investment in digital and 3D, Mr De Cesare pointed out, customers will be able to enjoy even higher picture quality as the studios intended for the 3D releases and will be assured of clean, brand new glasses at each show.

Ticket prices for 3D films will see a modest increase, he added.

After the new technology is installed in Cinema 11, already equipped with a silver screen for 3D in the first week of July, work will begin in Cinemas 6 and 16 where silver screens also have to be fitted besides new projection capabilities. Installation at the latter two theatres will be complete by the end of summer.

With radio station 897 Bay, Eden Cinemas is the largest earner for Eden Leisure's entertainment business. Last year, the cinemas had a record year, ending 12 per cent up on 2008. The last quarter boosted the numbers as local production Maltageddon went on to beat Avatar at the box office.

Mr De Cesare said locally produced films, which have proven to be extremely popular with cinema-goers, will benefit greatly from the digital projection at Eden Cinemas as they are shot in digital. The company has also pledged to provide assistance and support to local productions.

The managing director said the year was proving to be a "very good" one for Eden Cinemas' business, with the first half ahead of the corresponding period in 2009. Mr De Cesare described the first quarter as "very strong", and a weak April - largely due to weak releases - was followed by brisk business in May. As expected, the World Cup has slowed the momentum in June but business is expected to soar in July at the start of the summer programme with the release of a host of major films, including Twilight Eclipse and Karate Kid.

Looking ahead, Mr De Cesare said the new investment will eventually allow Eden theatres to show varied content in 3D, possibly even the next World Cup and major events and concerts.

Eden Cinemas opened in 1993 with six screens and revived the dormant cinema business on the islands. It now operates 76 showings at 17 theatres a day to total over 28,000 a year, suffering just 10 breakdowns a year.

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