The 50-pound canisters that could hold an entire movie, a mainstay at theaters for the better part of a century, are becoming history at Rave Motion Pictures in Davenport.
In their place are smaller, sleeker hard drives, making way for digital projection at the 18-screen multiplex — and creating the second IMAX screen in the Quad-Cities.
“We just want to take it into the next generation technology-wise,” Jeremy Devine, vice president of marketing for the Dallas-based cinema chain, said Wednesday.
Devine is in Davenport this week to promote the conversion from film to digital delivery. It was only as he was leaving Texas on Monday that he learned IMAX would be in the big picture as well.
“IMAX is really expanding its footprint across the country to lots of different theater chains,” said Devine, whose company is adding the large-format screens in 17 of its 61 markets.
The other IMAX screen in the Quad-Cities is at the Putnam Museum in Davenport, which opened its theater in March 2002.
Devine said two IMAX screens can survive in the market.
“IMAX has determined that if it were us and another commercial theater, they probably wouldn’t license it that way. But if it’s an institution or a museum, they seem to be going to get those clearances,” he said.
Kim Findlay, president and CEO of the Putnam, said the philosophy of the museum won’t change in its efforts to acquire big-name movies. “Shrek Forever After,” which opened in May, was the first film for which the Putnam had its premiere with the rest of the country.
“We’ve known for some time that IMAX has changed its business model ... to places beyond museums and science centers,” Findlay said. “We’ll continue to work to get films as early as we possibly can. How that plays out, we’ll see.”
Devine said Rave would not play the nature-based documentaries that were an early IMAX staple. The IMAX versions of Hollywood movies through the end of 2010 are “Megamind,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and “Tron: Legacy.”
Rave purchased the former Showcase Cinemas and 30 other theaters from Massachusetts-based National Amusements in December. Devine said National Amusements made an effort to block new movies from playing at the Putnam, but his company does not share that philosophy.
“Rave has no position on that. That’s up to IMAX. We have no problem with Putnam playing those things,” he said. “They can play what they want, and that’s been our position from day one. We just frankly don’t want negativity or to be pilloried because we’re moving ahead with IMAX.”
The theater’s 58-foot wide, 25-foot high screen in one of its largest, 477-seat auditoriums will be converted to IMAX by November, he said.
“I believe that the Putnam will have a larger screen and be a destination for certain types of things,” Devine said. “We’ll be a larger entertainment center, a very enhanced presentation, but one of many offerings.”
Digital projection will offer a crisper, cleaner picture with no signs of wear, unlike film, Devine said.
He said he was pleased with the quality of the Davenport location, which opened during the holiday movie season of 1998. Rave plans improvements to the customer area, including new carpeting and signage and a reconfiguration of the concession area.
The number of screens showing 3-D movies will stay at three, plus the IMAX, he said, with the addition of other IMAX screens next on the list of improvements. A silver screen, filters and lens are needed to project in 3-D, and the company that makes the screens cannot keep up with the demand.
There are 10 3-D movies due out before the end of the year, he said.
“It will continue to make the movie-going experience qualitatively better than people can have at home,” Devine said. “We know that movies have to remain relevant, because there are lots of other ways to consume your entertainment.”