CLOVERDALE — The clock is ticking on Clova Cinema’s so-called “Road to Digital” fundraising campaign.
The movie theatre is on borrowed time, given its use of two old-school film projectors, nicknamed Martha and Ethel.
To keep up with technology, a switch to digital projectors is required, or it could be lights out for the theatre, located in the heart of Cloverdale since the 1940s.
“If I’m not upgraded (to digital projectors) by new year’s, I don’t see this business carrying on – I don’t think we can,” Craig Burghardt, who has owned and operated the Clova for 17 years, told the Now.
“I would have liked to have gone digital two months ago,” he added. “What’s holding me back is A, the technology, and B, the viability of the business as an independent. It’s not a for-sure no and it’s not a for-sure yes, it’s a maybe.”
Since it was launched last fall, the Clova’s “Road to Digital” fundraising campaign to buy digital projectors has generated several thousand dollars, through concerts, an Amazing Race-style adventure and other special events.
A used digital projector can be purchased for around $33,000, Burghardt said.
“We had around $12,000 in our dedicated fund for that, but the government of Canada came calling a month ago and wanted $20,000, which we didn’t have, so I had to raid that ‘Road to Digital’ fund to pay for that, so the fund is at around $4,000 now. So yeah, it’s dicey.”
Burghardt is finding it more and more difficult to find films to screen on his aging projectors, to the point where double features are rare.
Changes in the movie industry are also adding to the Clova’s woes.
“As an intermediate-run theatre, it’s tough, because film companies are changing their schedules,” Burghardt said.
“That time between theatrical release and DVD release is shrinking big-time, and things like Netflix and iTunes – they’re getting movies before theatrical release in some cases, with sponsorship deals.”
The Clova’s two projectors – the two “old ladies” – are temperamental at the best of times.
“We know when a reel is loose or something isn’t quite right,” Burghardt said. “Like last night, Martha was making a noise and I knew she needed more oil, so I gave that to her and eventually the noise petered out and she was happy.... Ethel is better, Martha is more finicky and there are more problems with her. Ethel is the good little projector.”
On a “good” Friday night, the Clova will attract 100 patrons.
“We used to do that more often, so I’m not sure if the demographics are changing or what,” said Burghardt, who worries about keeping his “family” of dedicated Clova employees on the job.
“We want people to see a movie here, of course, but I don’t want people coming here out of guilt or obligation,” Burghardt emphasized.
“I want people to come here because they want to see a movie and enjoy themselves. That’s the kind of business I want to run, not the ‘poor me, please support us’ kind of message. I really don’t want that.”
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