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Its fate formerly in question, the historic Bank Street movie house moves onward

Kajahni Tharmarajan | Fulcrum Contributor

Last year, the historic Mayfair Theatre on Bank Street faced its greatest challenge yet when it became imperative to give in and adopt digital film technology.

Beginning this year, most (if not all) films will stop distributing the traditional 35-mm film prints and will start project all releases exclusively in digital format. As such, the Mayfair Theatre was left with a choice: go digital or go dark. For a while, it looked like 2013 would be the year the Mayfair closed its doors.

Originally, the goal was to raise $55,000 to buy a digital cinema package (DCP) for the theatre. However, general manager Christy Fletcher explained that that goal was eventually lowered because of a good deal they found on a used system. A brand-new DCP would have cost more than $80,000, but the Mayfair was able to purchase one secondhand for $45,000.

“It was a good deal and it was almost new,” says Fletcher.

The Mayfair Theatre was successful in its fundraising, which included raffles and silent auctions held during various screenings.

“It culminated with our 80th anniversary celebration where we showed the 1932 classic, Scarface,” Fletcher explains.

The biggest part of the fundraiser came courtesy of Indiegogo, an international crowdfunding website. The theatre used this website to gather donations from supporters.

“We raised almost half our money through that,” says Fletcher. “It was a kick starter. We offered neat perks. For example, people opted to pay and get their names plastered on plaques that were then placed in the movie seats. Overall, the fundraiser went very well.”

So the Mayfair Theatre lives on, albeit digitally. What’s in store for the future?

“Well, of course we’ll now be screening many films digitally, but we’ll still be showing 35 mm as much as possible. It’s a preference,” says Fletcher.

Many film enthusiasts will concur that celluloid offers a more enjoyable image and experience than its digital successor.

“On a basic level, it looks better,” says Mayfair Theatre programmer Lee Demarbre. “It’s how I’ve watched movies all my life.”

Even with digital modernization, the Mayfair Theatre intends to stay true to its roots and its traditional ambiance as the theatre moves forward into the digital era, thanks to the help of Ottawa’s film aficionados.

“What can I say, we couldn’t have done it without the community,” says Fletcher. “Ottawa is pretty amazing for things like that.”


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