DAGSBORO, Del. - Last year, the Clayton Theater in Dagsboro faced closing its doors after nearly 65 years of presenting feature films.
"After the first of the year, studios weren't going to make 35-millimeter films anymore," said owner Joanne Howe.
The theater opened in 1948 and used 40's era projection cameras that only held half a movie on its reels. A second camera was needed to make a seamless transition to the second half of the film.
But that technology became obsolete over the last few decades, and Delaware's only single-screen theater still showing-first run movies needed $65,000 to convert to Hollywood's digital technology. So loyal movie-watchers stepped in to save the day, and the silver screen.
Throughout 2013, the theater held fund raisers, concerts and special showings of "Clayton's Classics" to raise enough to make the switch. And on March 7, "The Lego Movie" was the first movie at Clayton shown in digital format.
"It went pretty smoothly," Howe said. "It's just a whole different process and something that we just have to learn."
With the new technology, Howe hopes to have a quicker turnover with new films. And she says the theater was able to upgrade is now able to provide hearing devices for those who need them.
But moving from the old system to the new one doesn't mean saying goodbye to the past. The Clayton theater is looking for new ways to use the old projection system. As theaters across the country make similar upgrades, they hope to find additional machinery that will allow them to show a movie on just one reel.
"We were really happy to be able to keep that, just as part of the nostalgia of the theater," Howe said.
Holding on to the small-town charm of the Clayton Theater is important to Howe as they look to the future of movie watching.
"It's part of the history and community and fabric of Dagsboro," Howe said. "We have a great town here in lower Sussex, and we really appreciate everyone coming out and supporting us. And we look forward to seeing everybody at the movies."
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