It’s a new era for the Evans Theatre.
The film industry’s fast push to cease printing movies on film has forced thousands of small theatres across North America to close, but the Evans Theatre, the city’s little theatre on the Brandon University campus, has overcome and purchased a digital projector through its Save Our Screen fundraising campaign.
The campaign started nearly two years ago after the massive industry switch to digital loomed over the theatre, threatening to significantly cull the number of features it could show.
The theatre had a choice of alternate endings: Stop getting new movies or get the new projector.
"There was a strong show of faith that the theatre was wanted by the public," said Ken McKenzie-Cochrane, vice-chairman of the Brandon Film Festival board, standing in the theatre’s projection booth, a room laden with old film curios.
Almost $20,000 was raised through the audience, cash the board parlayed into grant money through various avenues ,including the city and the province.
The new $65,000 projector is the biggest purchase needed, vaulting the theatre into the 21st century to allow them to show now-industry standard digital features.
While there were times since the campaign began when McKenzie-Cochrane lost his optimism, he said now it is clear the board wasn’t alone in believing in the importance of the Evans Theatre.
Evans’ mandate is to show alternative films, including independent, Canadian, foreign and classic movies, and the new projector opens up a host of new possibilities.
"There are far more opportunities for us to do more with a much better tool," McKenzie-Cochrane said. "There’s a possibility of us showing live-stream theatre ... things that just wouldn’t be available in Brandon."
With every media input under the sun at their fingertips, the theatre can also play pretty much anything on its screen.
Even with the new projector — a sleek, all-black box with two computer screens and a plethora of sci-fi neon blinking lights — the old and relentlessly reliable 35-millimetre rig, with some parts dating back to the 1940s, will juxtapose the new one, keeping the option open to show old reels.
As a technician tinkered away at the new machine last week, grappling with software upgrades and hardware tweaks, longtime Evans projectionist Mark Delmage reflected on the massive evolution taking place in front of him.
"I love working with film," Delmage said. "It’s a challenge. You want to get the changeover just right ... some of that is going to be missed.
"Something pumps in my heart I hear the film clicking through the machine."
Several big reels of film are now replaced with a novel-sized hard drive and on it are several different versions of one movie.
The Save Our Screen campaign continues and new speakers will be the next purchase for the theatre, another estimated $15,000.
The theatre will be open again in October, though no word yet on what feature will show to introduce the new chapter of the Evans Theatre.
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