Yokota Theater goes digital
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Since 1977, the theater at Yokota Air Base, Japan, has provided service members with the latest Hollywood flicks through 35mm filmstrip rolls. Almost 40 years later and almost a century since film began ruling the movie industry, the base theater is converting to a digital format.
The Yokota Theater is scheduled to update its facility April 9, 2013, taking about four days to complete the $150,000 project. The first digital movies should begin showing here April 13, 2013, according to Sgt. 1st Class Jon Cupp, Army & Air Force Exchange Service Pacific Region Public Affairs officer.
"Upgrades to the Yokota Theater will include a new digital projector, sound system and screen that can better project 3-D images," Cupp said. "Prior to the upgrade, the Yokota Theater could not play 3-D movies. Now, moviegoers will be able to see all the latest 3-D films and enjoy superior sound and visual presentations not possible with 35mm film."
Cupp added that moviegoers at locations where Exchange-operated theaters convert to digital will immediately notice an expanded availability and selection.
"Typically, Exchange theaters overseas show movies a week after stateside release. However, the digital versions are air mailed from the U.S.," Cupp said. "Because digital conversion eliminates the need to rotate a limited number of analog prints from theater to theater, film offerings are expected to reflect greater immediacy as the newest movies will be available to all overseas locations at the same time."
Along with providing an all-around better movie experience for the base community, the digital conversion also lends to many conveniences for the theater staff.
The old system of 35mm systems required a certified projectionist to run the reels. The new digital system plays a movie with a press of a few buttons. A digital drive is inserted into a computer and is projected in high resolution onto the screen. The movie cannot be played without the password that is sent to the designated theater through e-mail.
For those wondering how the Air Force can afford such an improvement to a base theater with the abundance of budget cuts going on, Cupp said, "Because movie operations are a service of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, the Air Force does not incur any expenses in the operation of theaters." He added that going digital is a more cost effective format as it costs less when it comes to shipping and maintenance.
According to AAFES Headquarters, while there are no immediate plans to change ticket prices for 2-D movies ($4.50-$5.50 for an adult and $2.25 to $2.75 for children), a new option with digital implementation will be to see films in 3-D. Ticket prices for these films (which will include a complimentary pair of 3-D glasses) will range from $6.50-$7.50 for an adult and $4.25-$4.75 for a child. According to the National Association of Theater Owners Web site, the average cost of a movie ticket in the U.S. is $7.93. Movie ticket pricing is dynamic, but the Exchange remains committed to offering the best entertainment value possible.
Frances Kilbane, Yokota Theater supervisor, said he is looking forward to the base theater providing a 3-D experience.
"The upgrades should be neat, and they might bring more people to the theater because we can now better compete with off-base theaters," Kilbane added.
"We're thrilled to be able to provide our customers with a new, state of the art theater experience and something that will definitely make them excited about going back to the movies," Cupp said. "We're hoping that all of our military service members will take advantage of the newly upgraded theater. Everything we've been doing with the upgrades has been done with benefitting our customers in mind."