For Paula and Tim Guthat, those fantasies became a life-changing reality in 2013 when they founded Cinema Detroit, one of only two seven-day-a-week movie theaters in the City of Detroit. But even as the popular theater moves to a new, more visible and accessible location this week, they’ll be unable to screen many of the classic films they once dreamed of programming – unless they get new projection equipment.
“Owning a movie theater in 2015 is so much about technology,” Paula Guthat told me. “And many of the classic film restorations I’d love to play won’t be available to us, because we don’t have all of the necessary digital projection technology.”
While Cinema Detroit has screened independent and specialty releases on professionally mastered digital formats since the theater’s inception, high profile restorations of classic movies from major studios have been out of reach, due to modern encryption technology. It’s a common problem among independently operated theaters in a post-film world (particularly those who avoid screening from consumer home video formats like DVD).
“It’s not as simple as just shipping us a 35 mm print anymore,” Guthat said. “Without getting too complicated, screening content from certain distributors requires us to acquire and upgrade our digital projection. Once we’ve done that, our options increase enormously.”
But costs are high. Industry standard, DCI-compliant digital projection – the same technology you find at national theater chains – requires at least a $50,000 investment, a substantial sum for any small business. So the Guthats have launched Cinema Detroit’s Projection Campaign, a crowd funding initiative designed to make Version 2.0 of their dream come true. And, just days before their new location (located in a former furniture factory) opens for business, they’re well on their way toward the goal.
In addition to upgraded technology, Cinema Detroit’s new home will also offer a café where attendees can gather for good, olde fashioned conversation. Creating a physical space where people can share their love of movies makes particular sense for Paula, who co-founded the TCM Party live tweeting community for viewers of Turner Classic Movies in 2011. Four years later, hundreds of people use the Twitter hashtag 24/7, with new converts joining daily.
“The only thing movie fans love more than talking about movies is watching them,” Guthat said. “And we love giving them a place to do both.”
For more information on Cinema Detroit’s Projection Campaign click here.