In case you're wondering why it's taken so long for American theaters to switch over to digital projection, the technology is expensive. One digital projector used to cost millions (now a bit less), and cinema chains just haven't had the dough to replace all, or most, of their equipment with the new stuff. Considering they couldn't get the studios to foot the bill, they seemed to be okay with the slow changeover. It isn't like theaters pay to develop film prints and ship them around the world, so it wasn't a loss to them. Still, they have had pressure to switch, particularly now with all the buzz about 3D versions of the Star Wars films. Finally, cinemas are eying the prospects more clearly.

The major U.S. chains, owned by Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Entertainment, Inc. and Cinemark USA, Inc. are about to borrow $1 billion in order to furnish 13,000 screens (one-third of the country) with digital projectors. A joint venture of the three companies, National CineMedia LLC is working with JP Morgan Chase & Co. to raise the money from hedge funds and private-equity firms. The money will be paid back over seven years with help from the studios (this is still being worked out).

Personally, I've been enjoying the slower process, and this coming from somebody who spent three years working with the annoyances of platter-system film projectors. I love the way film looks and I probably won't change once I do see a movie in digital (I know, it's about time I check it out). Nonetheless, I am always excited about advances in the cinema industry, and am therefore excited about this news, if it is true (it comes from anonymous sources on the fund-raising side of the deal). As long as places like Film Forum always use the old projectors, I don't mind at all if the multiplexes do their thing.