Last reel-to-reel projection as Little Art Theatre prepares to revamp

by Bob Deutsch

last reel to reel projectionWith digital projection quickly becoming the norm across the nation, the venues in which to experience traditional movie projection systems are still fading away. The ability to see a film projected from reels the way it has been for years may be disappearing, but some independent houses have found ways to survive the newest technological changes and the expectations that come with them. One such place is the Little Art Theatre in Dayton, Ohio, which has held its final screening using the old equipment.

NPR recently interviewed the theater’s projectionist Andy Holyoke about his place of work’s big transition to digital. Though he said he was mostly sad to see the old system go, he did identify some potential  advantages that the furthering of the digital projection process may bring.

“I see one of the great benefits as being when a movie is made and opens at 1,000 theaters all at once, they won’t have to have 1,000 prints printed; they’ll only have to make 1,000 discs, or maybe they’ll even do it all over the internet and there will be no discs,” he said.

As part of its farewell to this old form, the theater played host to a “Last Reel Film Festival,” a screening series that opened and closed with “Cinema Paradiso,” the much-loved 1988 Italian ode to the cinema on Tuesday.

There are numerous ways that a festival may pay tribute to classic means of movie-watching without acquiring antique projectors. One simple means could be the use of outdoor screens to organize an experience reminiscent of the drive-in.

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