Davis Theater Joins Digital Projection Age

By Patty Wetli | Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Davis Theater goes digital. Credit: Flickr/howsmyliving

There’s a new feature playing at the Davis Theater, 4614 N. Lincoln Ave., and patrons can catch it for free: vastly improved picture quality and sound. Last week, the Davis became the latest movie house to convert from 35-mm film projectors to digital.

“It’s way sharper,” said Ryan Lowry, manager at the Davis. “Immediately you’ll notice a difference.”

The Davis joins a growing trend toward digital conversion: In 2004, digital was just a blip on the screen, accounting for fewer than one percent of projectors. By the end of this year, that figure will top 60 percent, according to IHS consultants. Though art house theaters are frequently considered the last bastion of film, even Lakeview’s Music Box has added digital to its projector array.

For the Davis, the new projectors are aimed not only at providing a better experience for moviegoers, but at keeping the theater competitive against Netflix, video on demand and HD flat screen televisions. “You’ve gotta become creative,” said Lowry. “There’s a lot more things you can do” with digital.

In the film era, a movie typically arrived at the theater in six different reels, which would require splicing and spooling and involve something called a “platter.” “Now it’s on a hard drive,” said Lowry. With digital, projectionists simply load the movie onto a computer and input the desired running times; the streamlined process will allow the Davis to offer film festivals and special screenings. Digital is also necessary to show 3-D films.

Not everyone is a fan of the new format: film critic Roger Ebert is one outspoken naysayer. “It’s sad to see that go a little bit,” Lowry admitted of film. Certain patrons, he added, appreciate the quirkiness of celluloid, “like the way it would bounce on the screen,” similar to the segment of audiophiles who prefer vinyl.

Though film may be gone, the Davis is making sure it’s not forgotten. According to Lowry, owner Tom Fencl salvaged one of the old projectors and plans to display it as part of an exhibit of the theater’s history.

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  • PulSamsara

    Great !

  • http://www.facebook.com/SnyderFred Fred Snyder

    The Davis would be more competitive if the seats were clean and functional. I’m not even asking for them all to face the center of the screen – it’s a mild reminder of happier days when there was only one screen.

    • jkarczek

      For me, the extreme viewing angles of the screens is easily the number one reason I rarely watch films at the Davis. Number two is the uncomfortable seating, number three the mediocre programming, number four is the inconsistent maintenance and number five the fact that despite all of these deficits, the prices aren’t very good.

      While I’m more than willing to pay a premium for the convenience of walking to a movie, I’m not willing to do it if my neck is sore from holding an uncomfortable position for two hours while sitting in a butt numbing seat. By comparison, seats at the Music Box are as bad, but the atmosphere, programming and normal viewing angle makes up for the seats. Same holds for Facets and Siskel.

      It pains me to say all this as someone who figuratively bends over backwards to patronize local businesses. I’m just not willing to LITERALLY bend over backwards. I would visit the Davis weekly if not for the drawbacks. As things are though, my wife and I are forced to travel to Lakeview, Evanston or downtown for our films.

  • Pete Nguyen

    “The quirkiness of celluloid”? What kind of film buff enjoys movies where half the screen is out of focus?

  • Mimihaha

    I love the Davis–quirky seating and all.

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