BUZZ/SAW: ‘Mars’ Landing in Digital

When “Mission to Mars” touches down on thousands of screens Friday, the flick about space pioneers will help pioneer a little cinematic history.

Disney has elected to project the sci-fi actioner starring Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins and Don Cheadle, in digital format on 12 screens. This means that in a dozen theaters, good ol’ scratch-prone and dust-attracting celluloid won’t be running through projectors. Instead, “Mission to Mars” will be fed from DVD disks on players through prototypal digital projectors using Texas Instruments’ Digital Light Processing chip.

The participating theaters include four AMC screens in San Francisco, Orlando, Fla., Chicago and (where?) Olathe, Kan., as well as Disney’s own El Capitan in Hollywood. Later, “Mission to Mars” will get digital lift-offs in cities such as Boston, Tokyo, London, Paris and Brussels, Belgium.

Digital projection — using the Texas Instrument and competing Hughes/JVC technologies — got a big boost in June when the first trials, involving four screens in the New York and Los Angeles areas, projected “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” digitally. Digital projection of other features, including “An Ideal Husband” and “Toy Story 2,” followed. With the planned “Mission to Mars” onslaught, the industry now knows there won’t be any turning back.

At the current ShoWest 2000 convention in Las Vegas, look for companies such as Panasonic, IMAX and Barco to announce that they will be manufacturing digital projectors using the TI technology. Even celluloid king Eastman Kodak is going the digital route as it slyly prepares its own A-Z solution for the digitizing and digital delivery of features to theaters.

And Disney, too, will continue the digital mania when both the upcoming “Dinosaur,” due this May, and “102 Dalmatians,” scheduled for November, pass through more digital projectors on their way to more big screens — maybe even in theaters near you.


Roman Roamin’? Certain suits at Artisan Entertainment have insisted that Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti would be instrumental in getting director Roman Polanski back into the States to promote his upcoming thriller “The Ninth Gate.” (Polanski fled these shores in 1978 after pleading guilty to “unlawful sexual intercourse” with a 13-year-old girl.) Well, Garcetti is up for re-election in L.A. today, and Artisan’s “The Ninth Gate” opens Friday — and there’s still no sign of Polanski, who now lives in France. Yet another Artisan suit insists that “there’s still a 50/50 chance” Polanski will soon make his first trip back to the United States since fleeing. …

Jungle Heat: Look for a Peruvian sizzler, “Captain Pantoja and the Special Service,” to land a well-known U.S. distributor this week. Directed by Francisco J. Lombardi and starring Angie Cepeda, the sensual comedy about sex-starved soldiers stationed deep in the Amazon jungle has generated terrific word of mouth among certain fussy critics at film festivals, most recently in Miami. Those Who Should Know say Cepeda “has the heat and appeal of a Jennifer Lopez.”