Lyric Theatre plans digital upgrade by March
BLACKSBURG — The Lyric Theatre has seen its share of changes since it opened at College Avenue in 1930.
Now one of the town’s most recognizable businesses is changing again.
A new $120,000 digital projector is planned to be installed in the theater by March, said Executive Director Susan Mattingly, who hopes the transformation will allow the venue to continue showing films well into the future.
“The industry is changing,” Mattingly said. “It is estimated that by the end of 2013, they’re not going to be making 35mm prints anymore. So, if we want to stay in business, we must make that transition.”
Since the film industry is making a change, The Lyric, which serves about 75,000 people a year, must follow suit.
When a movie is made, Mattingly said, film companies print them on 35mm film and distribute them to theaters across the country. She estimates each printed film costs between $10,000 and $15,000.
In order to save money, film companies are transitioning to digital films, which are embedded on a small cartridge. Each theater will be able to plug the cartridge into their digital projector and upload the film into the projector’s server using a code that will ensure the cartridge isn’t copied.
Customers will literally see a difference after the digital transition, Mattingly said.
The Lyric shows about 50 feature films a year and about 15 special one-time screenings. Although the theater will continue to show the same type of films, customers can expect to see them in higher quality because of the digital projector when it comes to on-screen clarity, she added.
In November, the theater put a $60,000 deposit on the digital 4K projector, which is an upgrade from the 2K standard.
“Our board and building committee made the decision to go ahead and buy the next step up so we don’t have to turn around and raise money for an upgrade in the next few years.”
Including installation, Mattingly said the Barco DP4K-23B projector will cost about $120,000.
Getting the high-tech projector hasn’t been an easy task. Many small theaters are waiting in line for the new technology, which Mattingly had hoped would have been installed at The Lyric last month.
To help raise the additional $60,000 needed to complete the project, the theater held a “Celebrate the Lyric” event Feb. 2, which served as the theater’s annual meeting and kickoff for the Digital Cinema Campaign. As of Thursday, Mattingly said about $30,000 had been pledged or donated.
“We’ve made some applications to foundations, we’ve talked to businesses, and we’ve talked to individuals,” Mattingly said. “We’re shaking every money tree we can find.”
In the event of a shortfall in fundraising, Mattingly said the theater already has a line of credit to finance the projector.
The digital projector brings good news for both the theater and its customers.
Each week, a heavy delivery of 35mm film reels arrives at the theater, causing strain on many employees’ backs.
“A film like ‘Django Unchained’ weighs about 60 pounds,” Mattingly said.
Some reels arrive damaged or scratched, as they’ve been used first at larger theaters. General Manager Flavio Carvalho said the transition to digital will not only resolve these issues, but it will save theater projectionists a lot oftime and allow them to focus on other responsibilities.
Carvalho said projectionists have to “stitch” the film together from separate reels, which can take up to an hour.
“When we get the drive for the movie, it will be ingested into the server,” Carvalho said. “I don’t have to baby-sit. I will just check to make sure everything is going through.”
Although the theater has accepted the challenge to switch to digital, Mattingly said they’re not giving up their 35mm film projector anytime soon. Mattingly said the projector will be maintained into the future, and Carvalho said projectionists will still be trained on the projector, just in case.
But for now, Mattingly and The Lyric’s focus is on raising the funds to make this possible.
“The Lyric is a community treasure and cornerstone in the cultural life of Blacksburg,” Mattingly said. “Contributions will help ensure a vibrant future for the theater and enable us to continue to be an important resource for the New River Valley.”
To learn more about The Lyric or on contributing to the Digital Cinema Campaign, call 951-4771 or visit www.thelyric.com/contribute.
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627