Hope Cinema converts to digital projection

Fundraiser planned to help with theatre upgrade expense

A new digital projector has been installed at the Hope Cinema.

Hope Cinema is converting to digital projection.

Owner Kevin Larson has installed a new projector to meet the demands of the movie industry. Hollywood is moving away from traditional film, preferring to show films entirely on digital media.

Across North America, hundreds of small, independently-owned movie theatres are closing because they can’t afford to upgrade their equipment, which in Hope is $50,000.

“It’s the way the industry has gone. You either convert or close,” said Larson. “I’m not going to up my price because my costs are going up. I’m going to keep it the same and diversify a little more what’s on screen.”

Hope Cinema will now be able to “open” new movies sooner because the digital format is easier to distribute to small theatres. The old-style film reels are becoming rare, making it difficult for Hope Cinema to obtain prints. Digital projectors allow a variety of media to be shown, including blu-ray DVDs and various computer formats. Larson said this creates an opportunity to host special movie nights, film festivals, and show sporting and entertainment events on the big screen.

“I see the cinema as a cornerstone of a town and a viable piece of Hope,” he said. “It’s been here since 1945 and for me to change over and do this digital conversion, it keeps it in business for the next 70 years as an operating theatre.”

Larson and his brother Jeff bought Hope Cinema in 1999 and proceeded to invest $225,000 in building renovations. A new roof was installed and the exterior was decorated with new paint, poster displays and lighting. In the interior, the entire lobby was redecorated and the main theatre was improved with paint, carpet, and new curtains. The old wooden seats were torn out and replaced with more comfortable seats imported from a theatre in New York City.

A new digital sound system was also installed. When his brother moved to Alberta in 2005, Larson continued to improve the business, installing a custom-built neon marquee on the front of the theatre at a cost of $10,000.

The Friends of the Hope Cinema are launching a fundraising campaign this Thursday (March 7) at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival to help offset the financial hurdle of the new digital projector.

“The cinema is a landmark in our community. It’s a social hub and it’s part of the life and vitality of our town,” said member Kelly Pearce. “I think the life of our town would be diminished with the loss of that theatre. We don’t want another reason to drive down the road to Chilliwack.”

Other small towns in B.C. have raised funds to save their local theaters. In Sydney, on Vancouver Island, the Star Theatre received $185,000 in donations to pay for two new projectors as well as new seating. In Powell River, the Patricia Theatre raised $71,000 in just four months, and they’re well on the way to reaching the $90,000 target needed to buy a new projector and screen. In Nelson, a team of volunteers is renovating their old theatre and raising funds for a digital projector and screen, with the support of their mayor and council.

Local residents are encouraged to support the fundraising effort in Hope by continuing to attend the cinema, buying a $50 coupon book with six months of discounts and savings, or donating directly to Hope Cinema. There’s a donation box by the theatre popcorn machine or you can pay online through a secure PayPal account at www.hopecinema.ca.

For more information on the fundraising campaign, contact Jon Polishak at hopecinemapals@gmail.com.

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