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Marshall Smith is confident he can open Steamboat's new movie theater in time to show two of the biggest blockbusters of the spring.

Smith is the operator of the new six-screen Wildhorse Cinemas under construction at Wildhorse Marketplace. He's keenly aware that on May 19, film distributors are scheduled to release "The DaVinci Code" and Dreamworks' new animated feature, "Over the Hedge."

Marshall Smith is confident he can open Steamboat's new movie theater in time to show two of the biggest blockbusters of the spring.

Smith doesn't want to miss that date, and when the new theater opens, he's promising cushy stadium seats that should eliminate the need to gaze over and through beehive hairdos and basketball players.

"You're finally going to get a world-class cinema, and it's overdue," Smith said. "We'll have high-back seats with padded, retractable arm rests."

The word retractable is key here, meaning any two adjacent seats can be transformed into a love seat. And that's not all.

"There are inserts between the seats so the padding goes all the way across," Smith said.

Smith's company, Rocky Mountain Resort Cinemas, owns movie theaters in Sun Valley, Idaho; Park City, Utah; and Aspen. He operated the Chief Plaza cinema in downtown Steamboat in the mid-1990s, leasing it from owner Michael Barry.

Smith said he hasn't set admission prices for the new theaters but promised they would not up the ante in the market.

The six auditoriums at Wild--horse will seat from about 60 to 185 patrons each. Smith said the exact seating capacities won't be worked out until the task of fitting the seats into the auditoriums begins. The two largest theaters will have full auditorium-style seating. The smallest of the rooms will have auditorium seating to the rear and sloped seating in the front of the house, he said.

Projection will be analog, but the projection rooms are designed to make the transition to digital. They will be equipped with digital projectors intended to accommodate Power Point presentations for business groups, or even homemade DVDs for children's birthday parties. Smith said he is toying with the idea of hosting Saturday morning video game tournaments at Wildhorse.

All the auditoriums will have wall-to-wall screens, Smith said, and the latest six-track Dolby digital sound. He also promises a variety in the offerings at the food and beverage concessions at Wildhorse.

Smith acknowledged that the rate at which new movie screens are opening in the U.S. is down, and 2005 was not a particularly good year for the film industry. But he blames that on the quality of the films and Hollywood's over reliance on sequels.

"The business has been down-trending for the last two to three years. This is a product-driven industry," he said. "But our research in resort town demographics shows that people in towns like Steamboat typically have higher education and higher spendable income. They have more frequent (theater) visitation than in other places in the country. They like to go out at night. That plays right into us."

Smith is also convinced that the opening of the new theater will keep dollars in the community. He thinks Yampa Valley residents deliberately plan shopping trips to Denver around the opportunity to see a movie at a modern theater.

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