If you’ve ventured out the Parkwood 18 lately, you’ve noticed some big changes taking place. Our great relationship with Parkwood 18 afforded me the chance to take a closer look at the changes and get a behind the scenes glimpse of how the theatre will look when the remodel is completed.

About a month ago, Marcus Theatres set into motion one of their biggest remodel projects of the year, as they plan to completely overhaul the concession area, all the auditoriums and add a new feature that will truly make Parkwood a destination spot in Central MN. Not only are there big changes from a visitor’s point of view, but some pretty exciting improvements have already taken place, some that you probably aren’t even aware of, even though they’re right in front of your eyes.

The first big change happened quietly in September, when all the old projectors and film reel systems were replaced with state of the art digital projectors. The Parkwood no longer gets films on film- they’re now received as digital copies and delivered as hard drive additions, or they’re downloaded from a satellite orbiting in space. The films are now amazingly clean and a visually perfect copy from the original print. Many filmmakers are using digital technology to shoot the films to begin with, because it’s easier and faster to add special effects, adjustments to lighting and to clean up mistakes made during shooting in post-production. I noticed this switch to digital right away; suddenly the films seemed so much clearer and the colors much more vivid, especially the animated films and movies with heavy special effects.  Now that you know, you’ll probably realize it yourself.  In addition, they now have the ability to run more than two 3-D films at a time.

The changes taking place right now are no less amazing and will slowly materialize through middle November to the beginning of December as Parkwood unveils an all new concession area and improvements to all auditoriums.

In the concessions area, faster tech for ordering, a wider menu and a new self-serve soda station will speed things up. A new box office location and design with shorten the lines and get you to your movie quicker than ever. The new carpeting and the redesign with new counters, walls and ceiling, will give a brighter and more comfortable feel.

You’ll find some pretty cool differences in the auditoriums, too. During our inside tour, Parkwood Manager Ben Reiners let me in a closely guarded secret,

“Three auditoriums will be intimate luxury-style with over-sized leather reclining seats, side tables and 16 additional inches of legroom. The remaining 14 auditoriums will be updated with big, comfy memory-foam velour cushioned seats with reclining backs that let you adjust the seat-back to personal preference.”

But I’ve saved the best for last. The highlight of the Parkwood renovations will be the addition of Zaffiro’s Pizzeria and Bar. It will be the second such restaurant in the Marcus chain. Bruce Olson, President of Marcus Theatres said the addition was due to the outstanding response the first Zaffrio’s, at the North Shore Cinema in Mequon, Wisconsin, received from movie lovers.

The full blown restaurant will not only feature handmade-to-order pizzas, but other bistro-like food such as bruschetta, pastas, desserts and specialty salads. You’ll also be able to grab a libation before the show as Zaffiro’s will feature a full bar with signature drink selections, as well as an extensive beer and wine list. Other features will include a carryout service, live acoustic music on Fridays, patio seating and iPads to use while you’re there. You’ll also be able order many of the menu items through the concession stand at the Zafrrio’s Express area and actually bring them into the auditorium for the show! That’s a major plus in my columns, as I’m always in a rush to get to the theatre and frequently don’t have time to stop and eat before the show. Click here for a sneak peek of Zaffiro’s menu.

Olson said the lobby renovations and Zaffiro’s restaurant are scheduled to be completed by December, with the balance of the project finished in early 2012.

Although the Parkwood staff has shared some photos of the renovation on their Facebook page, we thought we’d add them to our gallery below, where you can also see some exclusive sketches of how the all new Parkwood 17 will look like. Reiners said that some of what you see in the art may change slightly as they put everything into place.

I don’t know about you, but I’m planning on selling my house and moving in.

Be sure to click on the 'CAPTIONS' option on the gallery toolbar to see the descriptions of what you're seeing.