The Block Island Times

Empire Theatre owner hopes to extend season into November

Kickstarter campaign seeks to raise $70,000 for projector upgrade
By Stephanie Turaj | Mar 25, 2013
Photo by: Stephanie Turaj Empire Theatre owner Gary Pollard stands by his soon-to-be-obsolete 35mm projector as he prepares the equipment for last summer’s showing of “The Dark Night Rises.”

Block Island’s Empire Theatre could continue to run films into the fall this year if the owner successfully raises enough money to upgrade to a new digital projector.

Theater owner Gary Pollard has decided to try to raise the estimated $70,000 it will take to switch the Empire Theatre to digital equipment, which is now the industry standard. He said he will launch a campaign on Kickstarter, an online fundraising platform, this July to raise the funds.

After having conversations with various independent theater owners, Pollard felt that the summertime would be the best time to launch the campaign because most of those interested in donating would be around at that time.

“My plan is to raise the money, and in the fall convert the theater,” Pollard said. “And keep the theater running through mid-November.”

The Empire is not heated in the winter, but Pollard said he is approaching other island institutions for permission to provide film screenings at another location — a digital projector is portable.

Last year, Pollard announced that the theater could close if it doesn’t raise enough to pay for the upgrade. Currently, the theater uses a 35mm projector that hails from the 1960s, but many distributors are phasing out the 35mm film prints. By the end of 2013, Pollard estimated that movies would no longer be released in 35mm format.

“Already, 35mm are scarcer to get,” he said, and added that this summer some new releases may not be available for Pollard to show immediately. According to Pollard, 65 to 75 percent of movie theaters have made the switch to digital technology.

“I’m on the late side,” he said.

While larger theater complexes can afford the upgrade, it is tougher for small independent theaters like the Empire, and Pollard found that many have looked to Kickstarter for funds.

“They were all in a fairly similar boat that I was,” said Pollard. “I was very encouraged that the majority were successful. Many exceeded their goal.”

Movies at the theater, which was originally built to house a roller skating rink, have long been an important summer institution on Block Island.


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