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Big expectations for IMAX theater in EDH and El Dorado County’s version of ‘early voting’

By: Art Garcia
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Regal Entertainment Group did a major rollout of new IMAX digital projection films across the nation, including an earlier-than-expected debut at the Regal El Dorado Hills Stadium 14 cinema, opening with a short run of “Eagle Eye,” which had been showing in standard format. After indicating the local IMAX Experience theater would not be ready until the end of this year or early next year, Regal opened its IMAX here in time to catch the opening of the DreamWorks animated film “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” which opened big around the country despite only modest reviews. Basically a kids’ show, “Madagascar” drew a box office total of $63.5 million as a three-day weekend tally, knocking off “High School Musical 3” for the number one ticket sales spot. Regal doesn’t reveal specific numbers but its box office sales for its IMAX version of “Madagascar” were “stronger than expected,” said a spokesman at corporate headquarters in Knoxville. “We’ve received lots of comments from the public about their excitement in seeing films in an IMAX theater, not only the ‘wow’ of the screen but also the ‘wow’ factor for the sound as well,” he said. Regal, a motion picture and exhibitor that owns and operates the largest theater circuit in the United States, made “Madagascar” available in 29 IMAX theaters across the country. The IMAX digital projection system can showcase Hollywood blockbusters that have been digitally re-mastered to the image and sound quality of IMAX, as well as original documentary-style IMAX content. The EDH Regal plans to replace all its 13 other projectors with digital units. Election Follow-up – TV news reports showed voters in last week’s general election lined up, some for hours, to vote days before Tuesday, Nov. 4, as more states offered early voting at polling places around the country. But in the Sacramento region, only three counties were similarly set up, and El Dorado wasn’t one of them, nor is it likely to be in the foreseeable future. Voters here have been able for years to go to county election offices in Placerville and South Lake Tahoe to pick up ballots, take them home, complete them and either mail them or return them in person. Or they may vote while at the election offices, rather than taking the ballot with them. Ballots can be picked up at one of the county election offices and turned in there by 8 p.m. election night or at your polling place by the same time. “That’s basically what early voting is in El Dorado County. We’ve always had this,” said Norma Gray, assistant registrar of voters. “It’s basically the same as absentee voting. You can come in here and receive a ballot over the counter,” she said. “This is the only place you can get a ballot before election day. A long time ago,” recalled Gray, who has been working at the elections office since 1986 and lives in Placerville, “you use to have to be absent or ill to get a ballot. Now it’s just called a mail ballot, not absentee.” Of approximately 110,000 voters, the county elections offices mailed out 55,000 ballots on October 6 to people who wanted to vote by mail ballot. “We had a steady stream of people coming in here to pick up ballots,” she said. There has been talk about opening polling stations in advance of the actual election day, perhaps one at the county fairgrounds, but studies found that to be impractical, if not impossible. “The problem is the California Secretary of State has put out a pretty onerous requirement that if we did early voting using an electronic touch screen, we would have to have an employee with that machine the entire time it was available,” noted William Schultz, county registrar of voters and recorder clerk. Federal law requires that every polling place has at least one touch screen voting machine – priced at about $3,000 each to accommodate handicapped voters. And the law requires there be an elections office employee with that machine the entire time it’s available. “We just couldn’t afford to do that,” said Schultz, not with 116 polling locations throughout the county. He said California is one of the few states whose touch screen electronic voting machines leave a backup paper trail. “Other states don’t have that requirement, but that’s been the requirement from the word go for us,” he said. Art Garcia is a career journalist who lives in El Dorado Hills and is editorial director of Media Mark, a professional writing firm.