Allow me to introduce myself..
My name is Renee DiAugustine-Bower and I currently maintain operations of the Berwick Theater. I took over this responsibility when my grandfather passed away last summer.
My grandfather, Vincent DiAugustine, was a legend in the small town of Berwick, PA. He was a man of many trades, but his passion was in the Berwick Theater. He maintained operation of the Berwick Theater for over 40 years and sold tickets in the ticket booth every night until he fell ill a few months before his death.
When my Pop got the news that he had a little over a year to invest in a digital projection system that would run him about $60,000, or he would no longer be able to show new movies, he didn't quit. At the ripe age of 88 years old, my grandfather actively pursued his options. Even in my Pop's last moments, the Berwick Theater wasn't far from his mind. It was literally his dying wish to keep the doors open at the Berwick Theater.
We must convert to digital or we will be forced to turn the lights out forever.
Movies have been produced on film for the last 100 years, but 35mm film is becoming a thing of the past. As the world changes technology is booming. Hollywood has made the decision to convert to digital format for movie distribution. In a little less than a year film distribution from all major production companies will be in digital format. Film projection systems will finally meet their long awaited fate and become obsolete.
The good and the bad.
The good news is that Hollywood did this to dramatically lower the costs of production and distribution, which will ultimately lower our costs. It also means that we will have a much more efficient way of showing movies. No more sound pops, scratched films, missing frames, splicing, bad sound, and shaking. The picture will be sharper, the sound will be phenomenal, and we will have a lot more freedom and opportunity with our movie choices.
To "go digital", means the picture and sound quality will be amazing. The system itself will be much more energy efficient. For instance, there will no longer need 2,000 watt bulbs to shine through the film strip. Sounds perfect, right? Unfortunately the bad news is that this new upgrade will cost upwards of $60,000. The equipment to upgrade the sound system alone, while very cutting edge, is very expensive. Many small town single screen movie theaters have already shut their doors because the upgrade is too costly. The film studios have offered multiplex theaters substantial discounts to make the conversion to the digital projection system, but independent theaters like ours have not been offered such an opportunity.
A little history.
The actual structure of the Berwick Theater goes back a long way. It was originally built and maintained by the Patriotic Order Sons of America for it's intended use as an Opera House. In the 1910's it was renamed the Lyric and later it became the Palace. It's believed that it was being operated as a playhouse at that time. Records show that it was the Strand in the 1920's-1930's and operated as a movie theater. Our patrons tell of silent movies and later popular titles like “Stowaway” with Shirley Temple.
In 1937 there was a devastating fire, but it seems that the Strand was more fortunate than it's neighboring play house. In 1969 major renovations were made to the theater. It was those renovations that the Berwick Theater still very much resembles. The whole project included fire proof walls, state of the art technology for it's time, the infamous BIG screen and many other upgrades that cost upwards of $90,000 at that time. My grandfather purchased the Berwick Theater in 1971 and has had it ever since. He leased it for a number of years but resumed control in 1997 and maintained it until his death in July 2013.
Though changes have been made to the theatre over the years, it still exudes a certain character that's unique to small town theatres such as this one. It's a charming theater that resonates history with every turn, from it's cast iron exit signs, art deco theater seats, to it's original classic aisle lighting.
My grandfather was proud to provide low cost, family friendly entertainment to his community. He insisted that prices never exceed the already low $4 admission fee. Sine I've taken over the responsibilities of the Berwick Theater, I've only raised prices that I absolutely had to. The Berwick Theater is a low-cost, family friendly source of entertainment that I believe is important to this community.
The theater acts as an anchor for the downtown business community the same way that a multiplex attracts shoppers to a mall. It is part of the character and vitality of the town. If the theater is forced to go dark part of the attraction of downtown Berwick will be lost along with it.
The Berwick Theater doesn't bring in a profit, and hasn't for a long time. Every cent that comes out of the Berwick Theater, goes right back into it. My pop never cared about a big profit, he just did what he had to keep the lights on. I don't intend to change any of that. The more profit we bring in, the more money we can put back into the theater.
What's in the future if we can make the conversion?
Well, when I look into my crystal ball, I see endless opportunities. If we raise more than our goal, we intend to make some much needed upgrades. Even if we don't exceed our goal, I anticipate that the options that come with a digital system will draw a bigger crowd, leaving us with a bigger profit to put back into the theater.
We will be able to show indie films, and hopefully launch our very first indie film festival. We will be able to show old movies and family classics. I am hoping to live stream bands, host plays and comedy acts, and maybe even invite a group to put on a Rocky Horror Picture Show. I also see the Berwick Theater being a phenomenal wedding venue, and a source for community events. I want to be as involved with the community as possible! Going digital is the first step.
So how do you know I can do this?
As a 22-yearold newlywed, fresh of out college, I'm ready to take on this task with a fresh new perspective. I've opened up the task to the community and have welcomed their input. I am not alone on this task. My family (new and old) has been so supportive and incredibly helpful. The community has given us an absolutely overwhelming response.
There are two major reasons why I won't give up on this theater. The first is one of the last things that my grandfather said to me, before he passed away. My Pop said to me: "Renee, how I am I going to keep the theater open?" "I have to make that digital conversion". I gave my Pop my word that I would continue his legacy, and I truly believe that's what let him rest.
I will not give up this battle without my best effort. The second reason I won't give up, is because of the absolutely incredible response that my family and I received when I let our Facebook followers know about the passing of my grandfather. Berwickians from all over, came forward to let us know that they had our back if we were to continue with the Berwick Theater. So many people knew my grandfather and his infamous stories. It's been 6 months, and I'm still constantly receiving sympathies for my pop's passing, and kind words about what a great man he was. That's why I won't give up on this place.
So now the question is: Do you support the Berwick Theater? Even if you can't contribute financially please join us on facebook and share the link to this campaign. Maybe stop by the theater and take in a movie some night. I know you will enjoy yourself!