Strand Theatre goes digital

Dec 12, 2013

Rockland — The historic Strand Theatre has installed a state-of-the-art digital projector. The 90-year-old theater was closed for four days during the installation. It re-opened Dec. 6 and screened its first digital movie, “Blue is the Warmest Color,” the following day. December will see the theater screening digital copies of “All is Lost” and “Philomena,” among other films.

Digital projection systems are the new industry standard and mandated by all film distributors. Movie theaters download movies onto a server, thereby saving distributors the high costs associated with shipping film. Instead, distributors will ship films on compact hard drives. Little else about the process will change, except that movies will look a bit sharper and brighter.

Although the film industry has subsidized this conversion for larger movie theater chains, it has not done so for independent art house theaters like the Strand. Some smaller houses across the country have been forced to close; others have raised money from the community and taken out loans to help finance the transition. The Cascade Foundation provided funding for the Strand’s digital projector.

According to Sarah Ruddy, executive director of the Strand, there was initially a lot of fear about forced closure among the smaller independent cinemas.

“So many theaters like the Strand truly did not know how they would fund this mandated change,” Ruddy said, but “All over the country, communities turned out in force to help their beloved movie houses.”

Even as the Strand moves into the 21st century with this technology, it recognizes that film carries a certain nostalgic appeal.  Fortunately, its projection booth is large enough to accommodate the new digital projector as well as its two film projectors.

Many theaters have had to jettison their film projectors because of space issues. Strand Theater Manager Liz McLeod said the cinema made a point of retaining its 35mm film projectors.

“Most converting theatres junk them, but we see a continuing need for a theater capable of showing motion pictures in their traditional format, especially archival presentations which require the use of dual projectors,” she said, adding the Strand will be one of the few theaters in Maine — “if not the only one” — to have this capability.

Shortly before the conversion, the Strand screened an archival film print of “The Wizard of Oz” to a sold-out audience. Strand management has said this event and others like it will make the Strand a destination for film buffs and film historians alike.

For information on all upcoming live concerts, films, HD broadcasts and events at the Strand, visit rocklandstrand.com; call 594-0070, ext. 3; and email info@rocklandstrand.com.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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