Northampton Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY DOUGLAS GRAVES Michael Traupman, Civic Theatre of Allentown Managing Director, with one of the Simplex film projectors replaced by digital projectors. PRESS PHOTO BY DOUGLAS GRAVES Michael Traupman, Civic Theatre of Allentown Managing Director, with one of the Simplex film projectors replaced by digital projectors.

Civic film projectors go digital

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 by DOUGLAS GRAVES Special to The Press in Focus

The décor and the ambiance at the 19th Street Theatre in Allentown's West End Theatre District is right out of the 1920's, but the movie projection system is now strictly 21st Century.

Electricians and riggers pulled out the twin 35mm film projectors and replaced them June 24 with Barco DCP (digital) projectors that can project DVDs, Blu-ray or stream downloads of movies.

The old projectors were junked, according to Civic Theatre of Allentown Managing Director Michael Traupman, because there is no market for them nor are they considered candidates for museums.

"Things will get easier for the staff," said Traupman.

There is no longer need for an operator to sit between film-loaded projectors looking for cues to switch reels of film. The staff can control everything from the front office.

"The human quality is gone," said Traupman lamenting the automation that is replacing the projector operator. "We've seen the death of something cultural. It's sad to see those institutions go away. We saw Kodak film go away.

"But, our viewers can expect to see some amazing stuff," Traupman said, acknowledging that the new technology will deliver superior quality. "Blu-ray looks spectacular."

The new equipment is part of a $160,000-upgrade to the 19th Street Theatre and Theatre514, a smaller capacity movie and theater venue across the street. Traupman said there were 540 donors in Civic's Digital Cinema Challenge.

Civic officials plan an event later this summer to thank donors to the campaign.

With two movie theaters, Civic can screen two or more films and also screen films in Theatre514 when a theatrical production is presented on the main stage.

"We always have a movie going except during the Allentown Fair," said Traupman. He said that during the fair, parking is too limited and traffic is too congested in the vicinity of the theater.

The 19th Street Theatre, what Traupman describes as a "movie palace," was built in 1928. The most visually striking aspect of the art deco exterior are the ceramic tile elephant heads that adorn the building on what Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski recently called Allentown's newest "Main Street."

Civic has a staff of seven, hundreds of volunteers, more than 200 area actors participating in its stage productions, with the arts center serving an estimated annual audience of 20,000.