"You could see a substantial transition (to digital) begin by the end of 2006," National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) President John Fithian says.
If they're right, it could change everything from the quality and variety of what consumers see at the local Bijou to how Hollywood does business.
"This can be as profound a change in the movie-making experience as color and sound," Titanic director James Cameron told theater owners at an industry convention in March where he and Lucas hawked digital cinema.
Among ways the digital experience differs:
• Images are consistently crisper and cleaner than on today's films. Unlike celluloid, digital pictures don't break, scratch or smudge. And each frame is more evenly lit from edge to edge: There's no bright spot in the middle. "