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Los Angeles's Cinefamily theater seeks $144,000 on Kickstarter to go digital (video)

Actors attend a screening at the Silent Movie Theater on Aug. 28, 2011 in Los Angeles.
Actors attend a screening at the Silent Movie Theater on Aug. 28, 2011 in Los Angeles.
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Cinefamily, the eclectic Los Angeles art house/revival theater, is doing a Kickstarter to help them keep pace in the modern movie world. They’re seeking to raise $144,000 to buy a digital projector and kick the rest of the Cinefamily experience up a notch.

The theater has a definite rundown charm, making its home at the historic Silent Movie Theater, built in 1942, for the past five years. Going to a screening there has a bit of an underground feel, but Cinefamily wants to make itself more inviting. It produced this video, in the usual wry retro Cinefamily style, to promote their campaign:

The centerpiece of the campaign is a $60,000 digital projector. On their Kickstarter page, they talk about their love for 35 millimeter film, but digital is becoming such a standard that, if they can’t show it, “we are completely screwed.” It’s important both for new independent films and for restorations. They note that they weren’t able to program “White Christmas” this year because the studio was only making it available for digital projectors.

Cinefamily fan Patrick Fisackerly says the upgrade bums him out, but that he understands. “I just hate the idea of watching essentially Blu-rays on a big screen when I could get that experience at home. The tangible feel of 35 millimeter will be missed. That’s not Cinefamily’s fault — it’s just the times we live in.”

Despite the digital upgrade, they say they’re still going to show 35 millimeter films, but they’ll have the versatility to do both.

Along with that digital projector, they’re also looking at a $15,000 theater sound upgrade, $8,000 live music sound upgrade, $7,000 for security, $34,000 for cameras and livestreaming, $10,000 for a new sign and $10,000 to fix their roof.

It’s a nonprofit theater with a board filled with Hollywood notables, from screenwriters to studio execs. I attended a screening there a few months ago presenting notable “very special episodes” from TV past, and other regular events include shows like the Doug Benson Movie Interruption, where Benson and other comedians riff over films. Recent screenings included “Prometheus” and “Smokey and the Bandit,” and they’ve got “Love Actually” and “Taken 2” on the way.

And what if they raise more than what they’re aiming for? They certainly aren’t shy about their ambitions: they’re shooting for $65,000 to get new couches and reupholster seats, $5,000 for new computers, $15,000 to improve the website, $10,000 for a professional video editing bay, $15,000 to recarpet and refinish the concrete floor and $80,000 to produce a print calendar.

“Cinefamily’s seats suck, but they are the first to admit that. Better seats plus new couches? That sounds amazing,” Cinefamily fan Fisackerly says.

As with many Kickstarters, a lot of the fun is the bonuses. They’ve got stuff ranging from found footage downloads to silk screen prints to — for the high rollers — private screenings, dinners with the film programmers and personalized Netflix queues.

The Kickstarter campaign’s deadline is Jan. 1 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific. They’ve raised $20,000 so far with 222 backers, but that’s still a long way to go.

(Hat tip: The Comedy Bureau)