In 1999, George Lucas's "The Phantom Menace" sent studios and theater owners into a tizzy. Along with the standard film prints, Lucasfilm rolled out a select number of "digital projection" test screenings for the latest "Star Wars" installment. The New York Times reported on the awestruck audiences, a mix of film enthusiasts, technophiles, and "Star Wars" geeks. One 17-year-old exclaimed, "All my friends who've seen it before are coming to see it again in 'dij','' — oh, kids and their slang! — ''It's 30 times better this way.'' Even the projectionist at the test screening's New Jersey theater agreed. "Film is wonderful. It's done tremendous things for us over the last 75 to 100 years. But another way is here. You're watching history.''
15 years later, the revolution continues — in reverse. And it's getting ugly. Can anyone save film projection?