Make improvements or close the doors

43_george_1874REEL TO REEL  — Orpheum Theatre manager George Tornga sits behind a movie reel of 35mm film in the projection booth.  I-O Photo by Buck Traxler

By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor

Even though we are in a butt-battered economy and movie theaters are struggling, it’s worth noting that even in the Great Depression, the poorest days of America, 60 to 80 million Americans kept going to movie houses on a regular basis.

And so it is with the Orpheum Theatre. It is the engine that drives the car. However, the bad times are fast catching up with the finest little movie house in northcentral Montana.

George Tornga, the movie house manager, says, “It takes $49 a day to put the key in the front door.” There is heat, lights, insurance and other bills that have to be met.

And, to go along with that, the Theatre is in need of updating-grading its projection booth from its stable 35mm film to a ‘new world’ digital system. If that doesn’t happen by April 1, the Theatre will have to close their doors. Can you say Kodak?

Should that happen, more than likely they will not open again even for concerts or play productions. It is just that simple.

The day of 35mm projectors and film is fast coming to an end – enter the era of digital production.

Tornga tells the I-O, “We have a matching-fund challenge for a digital projector drive of $5,000.” A silent donor will match funds for the project up to $5,000.

Funds and donations may be sent to the Orpheum Theatre, Box 564, Conrad 59425.

And with the new equipment comes upgrades to the projection booth as well, which includes widening of the door to the projection room, rewiring, a bigger window for the projection lens and air conditioning.

Asked if there were grants available for updating projects like this, Pondera Arts Council President Helen Elliott commented that “There are grants for concert performances, we can’t get grants for movies.”

It’s an old cliché, nevertheless, it comes straight to the point; use it or lose it.

If you have questions or need more information, contact Tornga or Elliott.