Digital Main Ephrata’s movie theatre enters high tech world

By on September 11, 2013



, Staff Writer

Steve Brown, who runs the Ephrata Main Theatre, will discontinue using film and convert the theatre to digital this week. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Next week, the doors to the Ephrata Main Theatre will close and reopen to reveal an all-new digital theatre system.

"It’s a reawakening," says Steve Brown, who currently runs the Main Theatre and owns neighboring restaurant, Lily’s on Main.

"I just want people to know what I’m doing, why I’m doing it and to support their local theatre."

"I really feel like I have to make sure that continues," added Brown. "Mrs. Sweigart and her philanthropy gave this to the community. I’m just the person who is keeping it open. We all need to make sure it stays."

The transformation will take place Sept. 16 to 19, when the theatre will close. It will reopen Sept. 20 and 21 with its first run of digital movies at the current $7 rate. The theatre along with Lily’s, will close again during fair week from Sept. 24 to 26 for cleaning and other maintenance and reopen that Friday. Brown calls it a reboot of Lily’s and the theatre, including a revamped menu at Lily’s.

Almost all theatres will convert from film to digital in the coming months, and the deadline to do so is January 2014. Those who do not convert will struggle to remain open or close completely. Brown is spending over $100,000 for the conversion in order to keep Ephrata’s theatre running.

"I’ve been talking to the audiences almost every day and tell them what we’re faced with," said Brown. "I ask them if they want me to make the change and stay open, I’m going to have to change the price. Everybody says, ‘Don’t you dare close it.’"

The theatre will open Friday, Sept. 27 with a showing of "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2." The new ticket price, $8, will also be in place.

In order to be able to afford the conversion, purchase the equipment, and keep the theatre open, the ticket prices have to go up to $8.

Although the deadline for theatres to make the digital change is January 2014, Brown is converting this month to ensure that he can show the blockbusters expected to be released this fall.

"The big pictures are coming out this fall -the next ‘Hunger Games,’ ‘The Hobbit movie,’ the next ‘Thor’ – those movies are only being released in digital," explains Brown. "So if we want to see those movies here in Ephrata I have to get this done now. I just want people to know that we’re going to do this in order to keep the theatre open."

But guests will get more bang for their buck with digital conversion. There is more light on the screen and no lines or scratches that come with wear and tear of film. Digital also allows for the theatre to offer alternative content, such as sporting events, boxing, concerts, or lesser known movies.

I just want people to know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it," explained Brown. "It’s to support their local theatre. It’s going to be a breathe of fresh air. The benefits are really cool."

The Ephrata Main also offers a nostalgic feel, reminiscent of the 1930s, thanks to local philanthropist, the late Anne Sweigart, who took parts of the The Roxy and The Grand and added it to the Main Theatre. The main boasts the original neon lights, artwork, fixtures and seats of Ephrata’s theatres of the past. Which, by the way, is why there are no cup holders. The seats are antiques and can not be drilled. Brown assures that there are trays available for those who need them for drinks and snacks. Ephrata Main’s atmosphere boasts an art deco style with original and replicated fixtures and accents, taking guests back to the 1930s when it all began.

The Main is also the only theatre in the state of Pennsylvania that is licensed to sell beer, wine and cocktails and concessions in an all-age crowd. The theatre also hosts concerts, live music and comedians, parties and benefits, weddings, meetings.

"The community took this theatre to the next level. We do things here you can’t at other theatres," added Brown.

"Lily’s is my business. But to me, the theatre belongs to the town," said Brown. "It was here before me in 1938. It will be here after me when I’m done. It’s Ephrata’s theatre. It belongs to the people that live here. Right now I’m just the guy making sure movies show up. If Ephrata wants to keep the theatre going I have to raise the price of the tickets to pay for the new projectors," explained Brown. He also explained that most of the ticket prices will go to the studios. The theatre will keep a mere 75 cents per ticket from the inflation.

More MAIN THEATRE, page A12

About Ephrata Review