Since the conversion to digital cinema’s impact on movie exhibition started getting mainstream media attention — NY Times reports “James Cameron says every movie should be in 3d” or CNN tells me “Purists insist digital cinema will never match 35mm” or of course your local paper has a headline that announces “Conversion to digital makes 2013 the year written on tombstones memorializing small movie theatres across America” — we’ve seen an increase in the number of patrons who ask fun questions about what the heck goes on in our projection booth. Part of opening the cinema in 2011 was navigating the transition to a medium that is easier to ship and modify with today’s technology.
Yes, when we opened CAPTAIN PHILLIPS this week it arrived — as all of our new releases have arrived since January — saved on a hard drive shipped to us in a little orange hard case that I have a way easier time carrying up the stairs than those 35mm film cans. We plug that little dude into some kinda machiney thing, press a button on a iPad-looking interface and kablammo! Tom Hanks on the screen! (Clearly this is where the mechanics get a little fuzzy for me and if you wanted more info about our fancy shmancy digital projector just ask Tim, but what I do know is that it looks to me like a well trained chimp could probably start whatever movie you might come in to watch.)
When we installed that digital projector we — like most movie theatres that took the plunge — removed the old 35mm gear from the booth, bye bye. Customers and friends kept asking Tim, who’s experienced everything from having his fingers on film from my grandfather’s 8mm reels to projecting incredible archival prints, if he was sad to see that machine go out the door and were always surprised to hear him say, “NO!” The 40 odd year old projector that was hauled out of here was not anything to get nostalgic about and, if you ask a lot of the people who spend their time thinking about film projection, an example of the kind of projector that helped to give 35mm a bad name. We couldn’t show archival prints on the projector that was here when we moved into the space because of the risk that they’d be scratched or otherwise damaged, that’s what a hunk-o-junk it was.
So anyway, what’s in that big crate — right? One of TWO shiny, slightly used Kinoton projectors. If you know about projectors this is where you ooh and ahh, but otherwise just take our word for it that if you’re going to update your neighborhood movie theatre to the 21st century and then give it the ability to play films using the technology that was available when it first opened its doors 86 years ago this is 100% the sexiest way to do so.
Less sexy is trying to get them into the booth. These beasts were delivered to our doorstep (no further) on Friday but since then we’ve only gotten one as far as halfway or so up the stairs with four big moving dudes, and the assistance of an electric stair climber that Tim familiarized himself with via a youtube instruction video:
So Tim carefully took them apart, photographing the wiring inside (I left those pictures out) and now they are each a way more manageable two pieces — one about 300 and the other a modest 600 lbs. Easy peasy right?!
We’ll check back tomorrow when the movers return and hopefully I can post photos of its installation in the booth. The technician will be here Monday to set them up and by Saturday we should be playing prints of Orson Welles’ Lady from Shanghai and also 2046 as part of Film 101 with Richard Hell (Voidoids).