Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — “I support Project Projector, do you?”
That’s the hopeful tag line of the Historic Palace Theatre’s new fundraising campaign, launched to keep new movies on its big screen.
By the end of this year, Palace Executive Director Christopher Parada said, movie companies will cease offering new releases on 35 mm film. Distribution is going to a strictly digital format, which will render the theater’s old reel-based projector nearly obsolete. In order to keep showing new films, the theater must acquire a digital projection system.
The cost of a basic system, no bells and whistles, approaches $100,000, according to Parada. It’s money the non-profit theater doesn’t have sitting around.
Enter Project Projector, an appeal to Lockportians to support their movie house by chipping in $5 a piece — the price of a Palace movie ticket — toward the digital projector tab.
“The simple issue is, at the end of 2012, they’re not making any more print reels,” Parada said. “For movies made in 2012 or back, film is available, and we can still show those. But from 2013 going forward, (copies) will be digital on hard drive only, and without a digital projector, we can’t show them. It’s the way of the world.”
It’s a looming issue for Palace management, which relies on movie ticket sales to help pay the bills in between live theater runs.
Parada could try recasting the Palace as a “classic” movie house, but he’s certain the oldies wouldn’t draw nearly as many viewers as new releases like Hunger Games and the Twilight series, both wildly popular with younger audiences. Fewer ticket sales would cause the price of admission to go up, he said.
There is some long-term savings for the Palace in digital projection. Currently it pays $200 for every film reel it has shipped from California, while the cost to have a digital copy shipped in is about $5, Parada said.
And for movie-goers, the digital viewing experience is said to surpass film.
Images are sharper and colors are more intense.
But Parada, who describes himself as “old school” when it comes to technology, is a bit apprehensive asking the community to donate to the cause. He worries a digital projector might be perceived as a luxury, a wish-list item, when it’s anything but.
“These things start at $80,000 and there is no financing available through the film companies. (Technological change) is backing you into a corner; you have to buy one” in order to stay contemporary, he said.
Project Projector asks local residents to contribute $5 each toward the digital projection system. The affordable, grass-roots fund raiser is inspired by local jeweler George Fritz’s “Save the Palace” campaign in 2003, in which he appealed to the community for $6 donations toward a volunteer group’s purchase of the building. That campaign raised $300,000 in only 2 1/2 months.
The message to residents is the much same now as it was then, according to Parada.
“This is your community theater, Lockport’s theater. If you want us to show movies, we have to work together,” he said. “If everybody in the community gave $5, we’d be able to do an amazing thing here.”
Well-known Lockportians are going to bat for Project Projector in a two-minute promotional video being shown on the Palace’s web site and Facebook page.