New technology at Island theatre

Posted March 30, 2006

Cutting-edge electronic cinema arrives on the Vineyard next Thursday, April 6, when the Island Theatre in Oak Bluffs premieres 12 documentaries in the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The new digital projector installed by theatre owner Benjamin Hall of Edgartown will multiply the Island's movie offerings by providing access to independent movies usually confined to film festivals.

In addition, it will make possible a new monthly movie series, "Undiscovered Gems," at the movie house. The first feature in this series, "Gem," is already scheduled for Monday, April 24.

The new projector being installed at the Island Theatre offers film-quality, high-definition images that do not rely on expensive 35-mm film prints. While digital movie technology has been available for five years, according to Mr. Hall, only 150 films have been released in the new format so far.

With the exhibition window for major releases dwindling from six months to six weeks before films become available on DVD, the Hollywood studios have begun underwriting the cost of conversion to the new technology. But most independent movie theatre owners cannot afford the investment.

Mr. Hall's investment in digital projection follows a family tradition of innovation in film exhibition. His father Alfred brought the first "talkie" to the Island Theatre in 1927. Starring "It" girl Clara Bow, "Wings" won the Best Picture Oscar for that year.

If the new technology proves a success, Mr. Hall plans to bring digital projection to Vineyard Haven's renovated Capawock Theatre after it re-opens some time this summer.