WATERVILLE — The 16th annual Maine International Film Festival enters the digital age as it opens Friday at Railroad Square Cinema and the Waterville Opera House.

About 80 of the 100 films being shown during the 10-day run are digital as opposed to the standard 35 mm, according to the festival’s technical director, Alan Sanborn.

The cinema’s change to digital in April was difficult and took a lot of getting used to, he said, but the bugs appear to be worked out.

“It’s kind of a whole new ball game and a lot of procedures to work out,” said Sanborn, one of the founders of Railroad Square 35 years ago. “This is the biggest change in the motion picture industry since sound. It’s all new equipment. You can’t use any of the old equipment. All of the procedures are different.”

The festival’s opening night Friday will feature as a special guest Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter Jonathan Demme, who won the festival’s Mid-Life Achievement Award in 2002.

Demme will present his latest film, “Enzo Avitabile Music Life,” a documentary about a gathering of world musicians in Naples, Italy. The film screens at 7 p.m. in the Opera House after brief speeches by festival officials and Waterville Mayor Karen Heck.

Also new to the festival this year is a ticketing system whereby festival-goers may buy individual show tickets in the Railroad Square lobby well in advance of screenings. “Before now, people have only been able to buy tickets online or at the venue shortly before show times,” festival director Shannon Haines said Thursday.

The festival draws thousands of actors, filmmakers and movie enthusiasts from all over the world to Waterville every July. Audiences get to meet filmmakers, who typically discuss films before or after screenings, and socialize with them at receptions.

Dozens of volunteers have been working behind the scenes, arranging travel and lodging for visiting filmmakers and in some cases, lining up child care for them.

Outside the cinema, Deb DeLong of Waterville was heading in to buy tickets for members of her family who live in Aroostook County to see “Hermythology” and “Lost on a Mountain in Maine,” two films-in-progress to be shown at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and 3:30 p.m. Saturday, July 20, at the Opera House.

“Hermythology” is about Christopher Knight, also known as the North Pond Hermit, who was arrested in April after allegedly living in the woods in central Maine for nearly three decades while stealing supplies from local camps. “Lost on a Mountain in Maine” is about the true story of Donn Fendler, who was lost on Mount Katahdin for nine days in the 1930s, when he was 12.

“My family is very interested in the hermit story,” said DeLong, a Clinton Elementary School teacher. “My nephew actually won a bookmark contest about Donn Fendler.”

DeLong’s father and her nephew Holden Stoutamyer, 10, of Mapleton, who won the bookmark contest, met Fendler when he visited as part of the contest, she said.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

acalder@centralmaine.com