Digital deadline for Port Fairy theatre

Port Fairy Film Society co-ordinator and projectionist George Dummett with some old 35mm film.140610RG35 Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Port Fairy Film Society co-ordinator and projectionist George Dummett with some old 35mm film.140610RG35 Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

EIGHTY-FIVE years of Port Fairy tradition will come to an end this summer unless the local film society can get $55,000 to upgrade the town’s Reardon Theatre.

Port Fairy Film Society has asked Moyne Shire to adjust its capital works budget to include a $12,000 upgrade to the theatre to improve conditions in the projection room.

The group hopes the improvements will be suitable for a digital projection system, which it plans to purchase for $55,000, funding permitting.

The society has already raised $12,000 over the last four years in preparation for the need to upgrade its 35mm film projector for a new digital system, while the rest of the money is hoped to come from Moyne Shire’s community assistance grant program, the Port Fairy Folk Festival and other funding sources.

The need to go digital has been forced upon the film society, co-ordinator George Dummett said.

“Very few current releases will be on 35mm prints this summer — 35mm is just not going to be around,” he said.

“This (summer) we may be able to scrape through with some older movies but we won’t be able to get anywhere near the program we want.

“Traditionally we show some of the best of the movies from the previous year.”

He said many regional cinemas were being forced to update due to film companies discontinuing 35mm prints. 

Instead, films will arrive on specially coded hard drives.

While the Reardon Theatre also has the capability to screen DVD or Blu-ray, those screenings are only permitted by law for film society events and not a 28-film summer movie program open to the public.

Mr Dummett said the society had been eyeing off a digital system for a few years, aware this day was coming. 

“Initially they cost a quarter of a million dollars per screen, then by waiting they came down to $100,000 a screen about two years,” he said.

“We’ve got our eye on a good system that will be the best we can afford. But we need the council to fix the projection room. It needs to be airconditioned because the equipment is temperature sensitive, humidity sensitive and even salt sensitive.”

Mr Dummett said the salty air in Warrnambool had led to the Capitol Cinema having to spend $15,000 repairing damage to one of its projectors recently.

The summer movie program is a Port Fairy tradition that dates back to 1929 and has been run by the film society since 2007 on behalf of Moyne Shire as part of the council’s tourism efforts. Last year it attracted about 2500 people, or roughly 90 people per movie.

Mr Dummett said the upgrade would would allow the summer movie program to continue and ensure the film society continued as both a form of entertainment and a source of fund-raising opportunities for local groups.

He said that over the past eight years a dozen community groups had raised upwards of $12,000 through screenings run by the Port Fairy Film Society in the Reardon Theatre. 

The theatre will celebrate its 60th anniversary next month.

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