by By Senior Airman Cody H. Ramirez
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
3/24/2013 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Since
1971, the theater at Yokota Air Base, Japan, has provided service
members with the latest Hollywood flicks through 35mm filmstrip rolls.
More than 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
"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
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,"
"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."