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The Seed&Spark Blog

The Legendary Texas Theatre

October 22, 2014

• Barak Epstein

When we re-booted and re-opened the legendary Texas Theatre in 2010, my partners and I made a decision to show movies.  There were independent films that just were not getting screenings in Dallas and the repertory scene was pretty much one theater on the other side of town showing midnight films.  Within 6 months of our re-opening, it became very clear that Digital Cinema was marching into the industry and would have a major and quick effect. We made a second decision in 2011 to invest in purchasing and re-purposing 35mm equipment for archival changeover so we could greatly improve upon the repertory scene here in town (and most new films from even smaller distributors were still being made on 35mm).  By 2013, it had become apparent that the indie distributors would abandon 35mm in favor of Digital Cinema (DCP). We marched on.  Major studios tried to end analog distribution with an FCC-esque analog‚ Sunset, which never quite materialized.  We think this reverse sunset is due to a breed of major filmmakers who have the clout to dictate the exhibition format of their films in a similar way in which they choose their shooting format.  

Filmmakers today have many more actual choices than they did 50, 40, 30, 20 or even ten years ago.  For a long time you would shoot 35mm and you would finish 35mm. The only option (for lower budget filmmakers) was shooting on 16mm and then trying to figure out how to blow up to 35mm. If you were a no budget filmmaker 15 years ago your export was a VHS tape or a DVD that would simply not play in a theater  Now, filmmakers making movies in the their backyards and Roger Deakins basically use the same cameras. Filmmakers can export a Hollywood and SMPTE approved (!) theatrical print from Adobe Premiere for $19.99.  At the same time, directors like Chris Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson can still shoot analog celluloid and print their films to that same format. In some cases (like Nolan's) they can get a 100-year-old movie studio to reverse the company policy on how they will show films going forward (i.e.:  from Anchor Man 2 being the proclaimed the last movie to ever be shown on 35mm by Paramount to Interstellar being released on film 2 days earlier than digital).  

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We at Aviation Cinemas and the Texas Theatre believe we have entered into a new era of filmmakers' choice. The technical decisions being made are now variable and conscious to how their audience will see their work.  We want to encourage artistic choice, all the way from the no budget filmmaker rendering his theatrical print from his laptop to the next Star Wars.  In order to give producers that choice, we need to have the presentation gear they need to succeed in showing their films. This is why we are telling the world about our crowdsource campaign to obtain a DCP rig and projector as well as spreading the gospel about keeping analog film presentation alive and well.  Our mission is to revive and continuously upgrade the historic Texas Theatre as a premium destination for movies, music and events, while building an enhanced infrastructure for independent film production and exhibition in our community. We believe having the best of both analog and digital presentations moves us in that direction.

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Barak Epstein

Barak Epstein is a TV/Film Production Consultant, Film Producer, Small Film Format afficianado, and movie theatre exhibitor.

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