By Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist Published Jul 21, 2014 at 3:07 PM

Back in early June, I outlined the more than $50 million in renovations that Marcus Theatres was rolling out in its multiple movie showplaces in 11 states.

The new seats, sound system and other renovations have completely changed the movie-going experience at Marcus Theaters – all of them for the better.

"In our auditoriums, we have impacted what our customers see and hear, as well as the personalized comfort they feel during their visits," Rolando B. Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of Marcus Theatres said.

"We have combined tantalizing food and drink with the broadest range of dining alternatives in the industry. Marcus Theatres is proud to provide our guests a first-rate entertainment experience through its historical focus on quality, value and exceptional customer service."

Earlier this month, I was able to experience the difference between the old and the new. Let me tell you, the new is spectacular.

I traveled to Sheboygan, where the renovation was noticeable from top to bottom of the theater. Every old seat in every theater was taken out. The aisle and platforms creating the foundation of the rows were rebuilt and carpeted.

And in its place, was the new, padded recliner that allows young children to large people – like myself – to watch the film from a fully reclined position. The walkways in front of the seats will allow people to get through the row even when other patrons are already reclining. Marcus is calling the new chairs the DreamLounger.

"Wider aisles, improved sight lines and full reclining options allow you to adjust your position to maximize your viewing pleasure with the touch of a button," Rodriguez said.

Sure enough, as I was listening to the theater manager talk about the renovations, I was relaxed, reclined, and would consider calling this a home theater experience out at the theater. Being so focused on the patrons, Marcus got this right, bringing this part of the experience full circle.

At many area theaters, Marcus has rolled out Zaffiro’s pizza options in the concessions areas. As part of this renovation, a dozen more Zaffiro’s Express locations will be built by the end of the year. For me, I enjoy the Zaffiro’s at the Ridge Cinema in New Berlin, which is a full service, sit-down restaurant at the theater.

As impressive as DreamLounger and Zaffiro’s expansion renovation was – and at the cost of losing more than half of the seats in the Sheboygan Cinema to make this financial commitment much longer than the initial installation – these were not the best parts of the new offerings.

While having to basically gut out the room for the new lounge seating, Marcus took advantage of the open spaces to install the Dolby Atmos immersive sound system. That meant more speakers up front and in back, as well as fine tuning and adding speakers along the sides of the room. And, they added speakers to the celling, which creates a surround-sound I cannot do justice to in this write up.

As a movie lover, I understand how important the music and sound of the film is to telling a story. Now, with the technology from Dolby in the shooting location and audio editing bays when the film is being put together, the directors and producers can immerse the audience inside the movie.

At the theater, with the new Dolby Atmos system, we watched the first minute of "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." I felt we were right there with Ceaser in the woods. Every raindrop was heard overhead, I was expecting to get wet as I jumped as thunder rolled in the speakers behind me.

Marcus is calling this the DLX. Closer to home, if you’ve been to the UltraScreen theater at North Shore Cinema in Mequon, or at the Renaissance Cinema in Sturtevant, then you have had the chance to have the DreamLounger Experience. You reserve your seats at the box office or online and can recline and take in the sound.

If you take advantage of signing up for Marcus’s new rewards program and attend on $5 Tuesdays when every film is available at the discounted price, spending a night out at the movies quickly becomes an affordable family activity. My wife and I shared a soda and saw a film last Tuesday. With the free popcorn from being a rewards card holder, the total cost was $15.

Because of the renovations, even in the smaller theaters at the Sheboygan Cinema, I’m considering a road trip to see "Guardians of the Galaxy" in August.

If you haven’t had the chance to check out the new offerings yet, I highly suggest you give it a chance.

It just may completely change your feelings on what you can expect out at the theater.

Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist

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