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Help an Independent Movie Theater with the Brattle's Digital Projection and HVAC Renovation Kickstarter

02.2.13 @ 9:14PM Tags : , , ,

Often when I’ve talked about small theaters going away or losing relevance thanks to the digital transition, many seem incredulous. Part of the reason they’re closing left and right is related to the expensive digital transition, which involves far more than buying an HD projector at a local Best Buy. Many of these theaters, though, offer something no multiplex can: films that are way outside the mainstream and American or foreign classics, many of which are only available in 35mm prints. The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of these independent theaters, and they’re heading to Kickstarter to raise money for some necessary upgrades. Check out the video below:

Here’s a summary of what they’re looking for again:

1. DCP (fancy term for a digital projector): Life moves pretty fast. If you’ve stopped and looked around recently, you’ve probably realized the movie industry is moving away from film per se, and toward digital technologies. Don’t worry! We will still show 35mm as much as possible, but as much as we like showing this format, many of the new films and restorations of classic films are only being provided in digital format now. So DCP is a necessary addition. But it’ll cost us $90k to do it right.

2. HVAC (fancy term for keeping the theater cozy regardless of the weather): Our heating and cooling system is on its last legs so we need to put in a new comfort control system (a 20 ton air handler). And it’ll be an efficient one, so we won’t burn 1.21 gigawatts of electricity just for your viewing pleasure. The new HVAC will set us back another $50k.

This isn’t the first independent theater we’ve featured here, as back in December we wrote about Cinefamily in Los Angeles, who successfully completed their goal not long after our post. The Brattle Theatre is another historic art house cinema, and they are facing a similar dilemma, needing a serious digital overhaul to stay relevant and keep playing some of the classics that are no longer being offered on 35mm prints.

I will admit that I am somewhat partial to the Brattle as I’ve seen many films there, and it happened to be the place where I experienced my first screening of François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. Presented in a brand new and fully restored 35mm black and white print, the film probably looked better than it did the first day it premiered. It was a borderline religious experience, and it’s the kind of thing that makes you remember what you loved about cinema in the first place. Those kinds of experiences are few and far between at large chain theaters, who rarely go out of their way to show even some of the newer independent films.

Here is a little bit more about what they do:

The Brattle Film Foundation celebrates film as a popular and fine art form with cultural and historic importance that excites, educates and inspires community. We provide year-round film and cultural programs at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA. Our programs include repertory series, premieres, film festivals and special guest speakers.

Our goal is to provide a diverse palette of films for the Greater Boston community and access to films that the community would not otherwise be able to view in a cinema. Our major focuses are: classic American motion pictures, contemporary independent films and world cinema of all decades.

If you’d like to help out, even if you don’t live in the area, there are some cool gifts they will send your way, and for a measly $5 they’ll display your name before every regular screening for the next year. So head on over to the Kickstarter site to check it out.



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Description image 10 COMMENTS

  • Really hoping Brattle is successful. They’re my go-to when I’m back home. Where else could you see Dr. Strangelove and Bladerunner on the big screen, in the same day?

  • on 02.3.13 @ 9:16AM

    Their cause is admirable. Hopefully this will be a success for them.

  • Hope they succeed.
    But there is one question that came into my mind: shouldn’t a cinema or any other business calculate such expenses for new technology or especially if something gets old and brakes into their ticket prices? I mean what if their old toilettes or doors or popcorn machine breaks and needs to get replaced? And yes I get that the DCP is a special situation here and also a huge investment, but what about the HVAC? It’s not a secret that things break and have to be replaced eventually. Shouldn’t one be saving up over the long run for such things?
    I am not trying to troll, just would like to understand. Maybe some one can explain to me what the exact financial situation the independent cinemas are in?
    Thank you.

    • I was wondering the same thing, Petr. I love the Brattle but I don’t think this project should be on Kickstarter. Is this really a creative project? I understand there’s a renovation involved but to me it seems like this is a business that wants new equipment and they want someone else to help pay for it. In fact, they practically state that: “To prepare us for the next 60, we’re depending on the kindness of strangers “. Kickstarter is not meant to substitute for a good business plan and proper allocation of profits. When I see a project like this I always think about the filmmakers, musicians, designers and other creatives who’s projects might be passed over by people who decided to help buy a company a new machine instead. Again, I just don’t think that’s what Kickstarter is for.

      • Joe Marine on 02.3.13 @ 5:18PM

        The Brattle is owned and operated by the non-profit Brattle Film Foundation, and donations are a part of their business.

        As far as whether it belongs on Kickstarter, that’s the great thing about Kickstarter – if people like something they will fund it. It’s true that the platform started as a resource for creative projects, but I think supporting the arts is more important than some smart watch or a new iPad pen that you probably won’t be using a year from now.

        Let’s also not forget that huge projects like this are the reason Kickstarter can stay in business and keep expanding, as they collect 5% from every successful project.

        • Yeah I know about the foundation, and again, I love The Brattle, but my main point was that this project is about purchasing equipment, not creating something. And whether or not people fund a project has nothing to do with whether or not it belongs on the site – many funded and partially funded projects have been canceled due to not meeting Kickstarter’s criteria. Kickstarter’s homepage says it’s “a funding platform for creative projects”, that’s really where my argument starts and stops. I understand that The Brattle supports the arts and is a great non-profit, but I don’t see the creativity in buying & installing new equipment. You don’t see production companies or non-profit filmmaker collectives on there raising money for new cameras and grip gear.

          • Joe Marine on 02.3.13 @ 9:22PM

            Kickstarter obviously thinks this is acceptable since a number of these projects have made their way to the platform.

  • john jeffreys on 02.4.13 @ 1:12AM

    The Boston Underground Film Festival screens there every year, I think.