Coming to a theatre near you: A new, brighter screen, better sightlines, plans to show events such as the Super Bowl and the Oscars and more alternative films. They’re all part of the $52,500 renovation and marketing plan for Western Film, which shows mostly second-run films on the second floor of the University Community Centre.
“The theatre is really cool. It will look really cool once it’s done,” James Waite, Western Film coordinator, said near the end of the three-month renovation.
The new screen was being installed last month and the office space is completed. Some finishing touches such as a new curtain and signage are expected to be completed by the end of September. The curtain will hide the screen and allow the room to be used for other events such as guest lectures or other daytime activities initiated by anyone on or off campus who wants to rent the space.
As the semester begins, the new screen is being installed and only some finishing touches, such as a new curtain and fixing up office space, were left to be done. The curtain will hide the screen and allow the room to be used for other events such as guest lectures or other daytime activities initiated by anyone on or off campus who wants to rent the space.
Western Film, which is operated and funded by the University Students’ Council, shut its doors in late May and renovations began in June. A sign reading ‘Now Playing – Closed for Renovations’ was posted outside the theatre for much of the summer.
Waite said patrons won’t see too much of a difference when they walk into the 392-seat refurbished theatre, but the screen will be about three feet higher off the ground and the film projector will be up in a booth behind the balcony so no one can cast shadows on the screen when they stand up. A new micro perf (short for perforated) screen ensures “a brighter picture that focuses better,” he said.
In a world where film buffs are downloading movies online, theatres are increasingly upgrading to compete and make the experience more enthralling. It’s how they “make themselves more distinctive, more of a night out thing,” Waite said.
In addition to showing second-run films (movies that have recently finished their run in mainstream cinemas), Western Film plans to show Shakespearean productions on screen, the aforementioned Super Bowl and Oscars, and more alternative movies, such as Chinese cinema and Bollywood films, to cater to Western’s diverse student population. The theatre will continue its midnight shows on Friday nights, which feature cult films such as The Room, and will increase its dinner and movie package in conjunction with The Wave to five nights a week. On Mondays, student groups can also rent the theatre, pick a movie of their choice, sell tickets and keep the proceeds for fund raising.
The good news is that prices will stay the same – $5 for adults and students, $3.50 for children and seniors (65 and up) and $3.50 for everyone on Tuesdays.
Waite said many students seem unaware there’s a real movie theatre on campus so the marketing plan, Western Redux, will involve more online advertising targeted at cellphones. Attendance dropped in the past year so he hopes more people come to the restored theatre. Pulling in the patrons can always be a challenge in an increasingly digitalized world, but Waite remains optimistic.
“Theatres are never going to go away. The industry will shrink, it already has. But what will be left will be better.”