by Steven Hale
The reality that celluloid is slowly fading from the cinema was punctuated last week by the death of Roger Ebert. The legendary Chicago Sun-Times film critic was a stalwart defender of true film projection for years (as he was for another perhaps-outdated medium you might know of). But this was always coming.
As The Belcourt notes in a press release announcing the installation, new films are primarily distributed in the digital format. If we want The Belcourt to continue showing them — we do! — then digital projection is a must. If anything, it's a sign of the theater's continued success and popularity that such an addition — an undoubtedly costly one — was possible.
The full release, with comments from Belcourt executive director Stephanie Silverman, and its head projectionist Kirk Futrell, is after the jump:
The Belcourt Theatre announces the installation of two state-of-the-art 4K digital cinema projectors to allow for the highest quality projection of new film releases—now distributed primarily in digital format. Along with this new component, the Belcourt—long recognized as one of the national leaders in the independent art house movement—will continue to project 35mm film, a particularly essential component for showing many repertory, archival and restored prints. The Belcourt is also significantly upgrading the audio in its historic 1925 Hall. With these equipment purchases and upgrades, the nonprofit Belcourt continues to underscore its dedication to the best standards of film exhibition. The historic theatre has remained open during the installation and testing of its new digital cinema projectors and audio equipment.
“Film-loving audiences come to the Belcourt for the best in film, both classic and new releases. While this digital equipment and installation is no small expense for the Belcourt, it benefits our patrons greatly,” says Stephanie Silverman, the Belcourt’s executive director. “And, while understanding the importance of offering digital projection, we continue our dedication to 35mm film projection. We’re not converting to digital, we’re simply adding it. Audiences can come here to enjoy a pristine restored 35mm print of a classic film like Douglas Sirk’s MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION as well as a stunning digital version of a new release like STOKER.”
The Belcourt’s new installations include audio upgrades in 1925 Hall, the historic hall where Nashvillians once viewed silent films. New amplifiers will boost sound quality, providing 7.1 Surround audio on a tri-amped system. With both new audio and digital equipment, the Belcourt Theatre’s professional projection staff has had to contend with the challenges of wiring, construction and equipment in its 88-year-old structure, first opened in 1925.
“We’ve approached this carefully step-by-step,” says Kirk Futrell, the Belcourt’s head projectionist. “But at the end of the day, what makes a good 35mm film projection is what makes a good digital projection—an screen image on screen that’s as close as possible to what the filmmaker intended. The audience deserves no less.”