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Dormont theater tops fundraising goal for digital projector, computer

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Projectionist and operations manager Joseph Morrison of New Kensington changes a disk on Sunday, July 27, 2014, in the projection room of the Hollywood Theater in Dormont.
Stephanie Strasburg | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Projectionist and operations manager Joseph Morrison of New Kensington stands in the projection room of the Hollywood Theater in Dormont on Sunday, July 27, 2014.

The Hollywood Theater in Dormont will get to keep up with the digital age of movies thanks to the successful conclusion of a last-ditch online fundraiser.

“This whole process has been huge for us,” said Chad Hunter, theater director. “Without people supporting us and contributing to our fundraiser ... we couldn't have lasted much longer without making this transition.”

For more than a year, the single-screen nonprofit theater on Potomac Avenue has been running its “Go Digital or Go Dark” campaign to upgrade to a projection and computer system capable of showing Digital Cinema Packages, the newer system of portable hard drives and digital files most movie distributors have been using to replace reels of film and DVD/Blu-Ray discs.

When the Hollywood's projector started to break down in June, the theater began a Kickstarter campaign to raise the final $7,500 it would take for a down payment on a new one.

That goal was met and surpassed last week. By the time the campaign ended on Wednesday, the theater had raised nearly $3,000 more than its goal. The extra money will pay for other upgrades and repairs to the projection booth.

“I'd hate to put all that new equipment up there and not have it look right,” Hunter said.

Much of the money will be used as a down payment for a new digital projector, a server for downloading and decoding the movies and connections for the sound system. The rest of the cost of the system — some systems cost $60,000 and $70,000 — will be financed over five years.

“It wasn't long after we reopened (in 2011) before this digital upgrade thing from the studios was thrown at us,” said Rich Dalzotto, president of the Hollywood's board of directors. Reaching the goal “just feels really good,” he said.

Dalzotto said the community support, and the fact that the theater has been able to keep its doors open for three uninterrupted years, made him confident that it could be a sustainable, long-term presence in Western Pennsylvania.

Technicians will install the new projection system in two to five weeks.

In a fit of optimism, Hunter said he had already booked the theater's first DCP-format film for September 6 to 11: “Frank,” starring Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhall.

“It's a new independent film we wouldn't have been able to get previously because it's DCP-only,” he said.

With the projector problems nearly over, Hunter said the Friends of the Hollywood Theater will be examining other goals:

• Switching the 35mm projector to a dual-projector or “archival” system capable of playing older movies without cutting and splicing them.

• Undertaking a capital campaign to buy the theater building from The Bradley Center and a private ownership group.

The capital campaign could kick off early next year, Dalzotto said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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