By Judy Reed
The end of the year brought happy news for both volunteers and patrons of the historic Kent Theatre, in downtown Cedar Springs: they reached their goal of $60,000 to buy a digital projector. Without it, they would soon have been out of the movie business.
“We were informed by our film distributors at the beginning of this year that movies on film would become progressively harder to obtain throughout the year, and that by the end of 2012 our ability to obtain film prints may cease altogether,” explained Len Allington, president of the Cedar Springs Theatre Association. “They told us we would have to replace our projection system with new technology—a complete digital projection system—and the cost of this transition would be $60,000.”
The amount of money needed sounded daunting to some volunteers. But they pushed ahead in a grassroots effort, letting people know, taking in small amounts. The volunteers put together bake sales, lemonade stands, and yard sales. When they got about one-third of the way, they wrote letters to people, and got a great response. “Once we were two-thirds of the way there, it increased quickly,” explained Allington. “Toward the end it was just amazing. And it wasn’t huge amounts people were donating. It was anywhere from $1.00 to $1,000.”
Allington said this was always the way he envisioned things would happen when they first started to restore the Kent. “It’s run by the community and supported by the community—and not just for movies, but for plays, concerts, and other events. It’s a beautiful theatre, a great experience.”
Allington said they are now into phase II of their project. They had originally hoped to be able to use the new digital projector for everything—full length films, DVDs, etc., but have been cautioned against that by their advisers. “The bulb alone costs $800 to $1,000, so we will be using the big projector only for feature length films,” he explained. They will get a smaller audio-visual projector for DVDs, thank yous, advertisements, videos off youtube, etc.
They will also be making some improvements to the booth, such as putting in a larger port for the projector, and adding some special glass to keep the heat out of the booth. He estimates that the cost for the digital projector, audio visual projector, and booth modifications will run from $65,000 to $70,000. Allington thinks they can finish raising it.
“It’s been a community effort from the beginning, and it’s great to see people supporting it,” he said.
The Kent recently showed Skyfall, and had Lincoln scheduled for this weekend and next, but the studio canceled it at the last minute because the Kent doesn’t show movies every night. They sent Monsters, Inc. instead. Other upcoming movies in the next few weeks include The Hobbit and Les Miserables.