Converting To Digital At Red River Theatres All About Survival

Mar 14, 2013

The new digital projector at Red River Theatres in Concord.
Credit Michael Brindley/NHPR

Red River Theatres in Concord is going through a transformation this week. Technicians put the finishing touches on installing digital projection equipment at the nonprofit theatre.

For Barry Steelman, going digital presents an internal conflict.

Steelman is the facilities manager at Red River Theatres. He knows the upgrade will make for a better movie-watching experience.

“They should notice a much brighter and clearer image here. Not that there was anything wrong with what was being presented here before, but this is an improvement upon that.”

But he also can’t help feeling sentimental about the transition.

“Having been only involved with 35 millimeter celluloid material for almost 50 years, it’s a change. And I appreciate what is going to be presented in its place, but there still is a little bit of melancholy about what’s being left behind.”  

The theatre’s Executive Director Shelly Hudson says the change was one made out of necessity. As the industry goes digital, so must movie theaters.

For smaller, independent theatres like Red River, that means deciding between going digital, or going dark.

“This digital equipment means that we can stay open, and that’s all it is. We don’t make any extra money on the equipment. It really is just to stay open and to be able to offer the films that we and our community have come used to seeing here.”

The theatre was able to raise the $175,000 it needed to cover the cost of the conversion in a period of seven months. That came through donations and also from a grant from the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority.

The new digital projector features a computerized screen, and is placed where the old 35 millimeter projector once sat. Projectionists were trained this week on how to use the new equipment.

Steelman says there’s not much to it.

“So now all you should have to do is come up here at the appropriate time and push a button and it should start.”

There will be a private screening Thursday to test run the equipment for donors and members. And on Friday night, the theatre launches into the digital world with a screening of Life of Pi.