The Rialto and sister theaters upgrade to digital

astewart@newsobserver.comAugust 1, 2013 

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Ambassador Entertainment -- home to Raleigh movie theater Mission Valley Cinema -- has finally completed its conversion from 35 mm projection to digital cinema.

2002 NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO — newsobserver.com

Ambassador Entertainment – home to Raleigh movie theaters The Rialto, Colony Theatres, Six Forks Station Cinema and Mission Valley Cinema – has finally completed its conversion from 35 mm projection to digital cinema (DLP) in every theater.

Bill Peebles, owner of the locally owned and operated company, said his theaters were some of the last to make the switch because he wanted to ensure all the kinks of the new technology were fixed before he made the investment.

“It’s been spread over two years,” said Peebles. “My rationale is, ‘I want to be on the leading edge of technology, not the bleeding edge.’ ”

The new motion picture projection technology allows the theaters to showcase Hollywood films as well as DVDs, Blu-Ray and anything else that uses an HDMI cable. DLP provides a brighter picture with better light distribution across the screen than 35 mm projection. It also enables Ambassador Entertainment to host live broadcasts of performances or events.

It also heightens sound quality.

While the Six Forks location is completely digital, the 35 mm projectors are still scattered among the other theaters’ screens. This is to satisfy distributors and directors who visit the theaters with their films and require the old-school projection technology.

The DLP system “does open us up to a lot of other possibilities,” Peebles said. On Tuesday, a father and his son brought a Blu-ray of a movie from the ’70s and requested to watch it on the big screen at The Rialto.

“I saw (that movie) May 14, 1977, and the picture quality on my screen on Tuesday blew me away,” Peebles said.

People can also arrange ahead of time to bring in their Xbox and play video games on the movie screen.

For $60 an hour, anyone can reserve a screen at The Rialto outside of operating hours to play Xbox games or a DVD. Theaters can also be reserved for birthday parties and business meetings.

Peebles’ Colony and Rialto theaters specialize in independent, foreign and alternative films not typically shown in large multiplexes.

Updates to technology are well and good, but many audience members hope Peebles will keep some of the old theaters’ classic accoutrements.

“Please don’t ever lose the groovy orange shag carpet at the Colony,” a fan wrote on the Rialto Colony Facebook page in response to the digital upgrade news. “Not everything has to be updated.”

Stewart: 919-829-4568

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