I had gotten a VIP pass to the extended cut of FOTR at Chicago’s McClurg Court Theatre – needless to say, an opportunity to see the DVD a week early was too good to pass up! I hadn’t heard anything about digital presentation, so I had assumed that was all it would be – video projection of the DVD on one of their smaller screens.

Imagine my surpise when I was directed to Theatre 1! As any Chicago-area fan knows, McClurg Court’s theatre 1 is the place to be for an event movie – it has probably the biggest screen in town, and the sound system is amazing. Even more, though, I knew it has been digital since AOTC was released in May. So I had my fingers crossed…

They had actually taped off a large section of the middle of the theatre for people with the VIP passes, so I was amazed to be able to get a terriffic seat, even if I didn’t arrive early.

The only catch was that I had to surrender my invitation, which was a lovely piece of parchment stationery with elven script in gold leaf. I was sad to let go of it. But, the seat was sweet. The crowd was small – barely a third of the room’s capacity, I’d say – but very enthusiastic, including many in varying forms of elvish costume. It’s always a pleasure to see something like this with the right kind of crowd.

Eventually, the lights went down, and they kicked right into a full digital trailer for TTT – it was just unbelievably exciting to see something I’d only seen on my desktop, now on a gigantic screen with booming, perfect sound.

When the wargs bound across the screen, it seems like they’re about to leap out into the crowd. Treebeard’s legs were so massive and detailed. The shot that starts on the tower of Orthanc and pulls back through Saruman’s army had to be seen to be believed. Just incredible. When TTT is released, I urge everyone to move heaven and earth to get to a digital theatre to see it.

Then the movie started – I first saw FOTR in pretty much the same seat at McClurg, but that was from film, and this was a whole new ball game. The Last Alliance seemed more grand and awe-inspiring than ever – when they showed the line of elves whirling their blades agaist the Orcish line, every elf was in focus.

There was so much detail in the image, it was almost scary. All through the film, I kept seeing scene after scene, full of details I had never noticed. It was just glorious. My only reservation is sadness for the fans who couldn’t attend these screenings. I really hope they organize some kind of large-scale rerelease down the line so everyone can experience a digital FOTR. It’s that much better than the film version.

As for the extra material, I loved it. I really think it’s a better film, and will probably never watch the short version again! I just wanted to tell all the fans who are still waiting to see it, your faith will be rewarded. Wow. Is it just me, or is it a great time to be a geek right now?