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Opera house installs digital cinema projection system

Maintain & sustain capital campaign one-third way to meeting goal

August 1, 2013
Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

FREDONIA The 1891 Fredonia Opera House has installed a new digital cinema projection system for use in presenting its Cinema Series, according to Opera House Executive Director Rick Davis. The new system provides high definition digital projection of all films in the organization's Cinema Series. It also provides sound improvements resulting in crisper, clearer dialogue and an enhanced surround sound experience, all of which was featured magnificently in the recent presentation of the blockbuster "Gatsby" as the first film using the new system.

Funding for the system was provided, in part, by contributions to the organization's capital campaign, currently underway. The Campaign, titled Maintain & Sustain A Capital Campaign for the NEXT 20 Years, seeks to raise $300,000 for needed technology and facility improvements. It kicked off publicly in early June and with direct contributions and pledges, currently is nearly one-third the way to meeting its goal.

Davis says that the campaign aims to raise funding for needed technological improvements and for repairs to and replacement of various portions of the theatre's building and infrastructure. But the greatest need, totaling $80,000, is for the purchase and installation of the new digital cinema projection equipment. "Using the direct contributions we have received to date, we were able to fund a large share of this expense," says Davis. "But we also had to finance a portion in order to complete the installation. We still need to pay off that loan with campaign contributions as they continue to be received," he stresses.

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The Fredonia Opera House is nearly one-third of the way to successfully completing its Maintain & Sustain Capital Campaign. Direct contributions and pledges received to date total just shy of $100,000 toward meeting the campaign’s $300,000 goal.

Davis adds that due to difficulty in securing 35mm film prints and also to the limited availability of the company that handles the equipment's installation, the Opera House moved to purchase and install the system before the campaign is complete. "We wanted to be able to continue screening movies for our Cinema Series which is our most popular series of events at the Opera House throughout the campaign. But we were finding it difficult to secure 35mm prints of the films. Plus, we learned that the company that would eventually install the new projection equipment was quickly becoming booked with installations for the remainder of the year. So, with Board of Directors approval, we opted to finance the balance of the funds needed in order to complete its installation."

The need for the system stems from the decision by film production companies to stop producing films in 35mm format by the end of 2013. "The result," says Davis, "is that the all theatres that present films must either convert to a digital cinema projection system or stop presenting movies. For us, ceasing to present movies was simply not an option."

Another unique element of the new system is an individualized closed captioning system for the deaf and severely hearing-impaired. The system allows these individuals to read the movie's subtitles, visible only to them through a special headset. "The individualized closed captioning is something that we have never been able to offer before," says Davis. "There is a sizable hearing-impaired population in our community that will now have complete access to our movies."

In addition to installing the digital cinema projection equipment, the Maintain & Sustain campaign also seeks to raise money for other needs which include upgrades to and/or replacement of technology used in presenting live performances and repairs to the facility itself. Live performance events at the Opera House utilize its existing technology to the utmost; but it has many limitations. The campaign will provide improvements to the existing equipment, which are basic needs essential to keeping a theatre running today.

In addition, the Opera House has operated year-round since 1997. This constant use has caused wear and tear on the facility and its fixtures, including the air conditioning system, seats, the 120-year-old plaster walls and wooden windows, stage accoutrements and numerous other parts of the theatre. All of these needs will be addressed with a successful campaign.

Those wishing to contribute to the Maintain & Sustain campaign can donate funds outright or pledge donations to be paid over a period of up to three years. Gifts of stock or investments also will be accepted. It's important to note that the money raised from the Maintain & Sustain campaign will not be used for daily operations but will be restricted to funding the needed capital improvements. Likewise, the Opera House's annual membership campaign, conducted in the fall of each year, will be used to generate funds for general operating purposes.

Chautauqua County's only year-round performing arts center, the 1891 Fredonia Opera House is a member-supported not-for-profit organization located in Village Hall in downtown Fredonia. A complete schedule of events is available at



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