The First Digitally Projected Movie Shown In The United States Was?
Answer: The Phantom Menace
In the 21st century, there is no doubt that we take digital movie projection for granted. We expect clean, crisp, and bright images that are free from dust, scratches, and other artifacts from the analog age of movie projection.
It wasn’t so long ago, however, that digital projection was a revolutionary new development in the cinema experience. Although the technology that powers digital projection, the Digital Micromirror Device (microscopically small mirrors laid out in a matrix on a semiconductor chip), was invented by Texas Instruments researcher Dr. Larry Hornbeck back in 1987, it didn’t hit the silver screen, so to speak, until 1999.
That year, George Lucas pushed the projection envelope by scanning and digitally distributing copies of Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace to newly outfitted projection facilities around the United States. Digital projection quickly took hold and within the same year there were two other digital projection firsts: Tarzan was the first traditional/CGI-animated hybrid film to be fully digitized and Toy Story 2 was the first film to be entirely created, edited, and distributed by digital means.
Image courtesy of Bautsche.