Your local cinema had better get on board with going digital, says Rob Nelson, a film critic for MinnPost, in an article called “Digital Divide.” Couch potatoes have enjoyed for years the joys of digital clarity while people who still feel the pull of the Big Screen are getting increasinly impatient with the slip and slide of 35mm celluloid.

Local movie-lovers with discerning eyes (including this writer) have reported driving dozens of extra miles for the digital projection of a wide-release studio film, frustrated that many Twin Cities exhibitors — perhaps anticipating that digital is the way of the future, or feeling the financial strain of the DVD boom — have become lax in the maintenance of 35mm equipment. To these moviegoers, celluloid scratches and splices, along with pictures that jump and slide out of focus, sometimes wildly, have become intolerable — particularly when hi-def, whether at home or in theaters, carries no such side effects. But cineastes of any tribe, by their own admission, are notoriously picky. What about ordinary folks out for mere popcorn entertainment and a new millennial adventure in simulated butter? Can they tell the difference?

“We formed some focus groups some years back to compare the experiences of audiences in [differently equipped] auditoriums, and the results skewed overwhelmingly in favor of digital,” says Brian Claypool, senior product manager at Christie Digital, a leading manufacturer of digital projectors that installs as many as 400 per month.

While many film purists say the flicker of celluloid gives 35mm images their living, breathing feel, Christie’s sample audiences reportedly prefer digital projectors precisely for their lack of shutters. “There’s no interval between the (digital) images,” Claypool says, “so the presentation is more stable.” So, too — or at least under the proper circumstances — a digital projection can appear sharper and more vibrant.

Is the same happening in Charleston?