Film series goes digital thanks to donations

Posted at 9:53 PM, Jan 09, 2014

PARK CITY, Utah -- Far away from the bright lights of Hollywood, George Dymalski uses a single light to make movies inside Park City’s old high school.

“When it’s actually running through the projector, it’s making that noise,” Dymalski said. “It’s oscillating on the screen. It’s neat.”

The program director and projectionist at the Park City Film Series is used to seeing films put together by hand before they hit the big screen at the Jim Santy Auditorium.

“It’s a dying art form,” Dymalski said. “It’s going to be going away here, permanently.”

The 35mm films he started building more than a decade ago are now going out of style in lieu of newer technology.

“It’s sad because film has always been an artwork and stuff, but that’s the way the industry is going,” Dymalski said. “And we’re just following the lead of the industry.”

The change to all digital this year by the movie industry brought with it costly upgrades that small theaters, such as the Film Series, could not afford.

“Kodak was in bankruptcy proceedings, Fuji film was about to stop production and you think, ‘Oh my god, the roof is falling,’” Executive Director Katharine Wang said.

But rather than close their doors, Wang and her staff appealed to the public for help. In September, they began a fundraising campaign dubbed, Go Digital or Go Dark.

The nonprofit group received a $20,000 restaurant tax grant from Summit County, a matching grant that Wang said the public made sure was met.

“We were overwhelmed, amazed,” Wang said. “We knew people loved film, but we didn’t know to what level.”

In a deal with the Sundance Institute and Park City Municipal, the Film Series agreed to raise $75,000 in exchange for the installation of a new digital system. By December, they had met their goal.

“A small kind of organization like us, we really would have been looking at a much lower quality projector,” Wang said. “But we’re looking at state of the art, best of class equipment thanks to them.”

Once the Sundance festival ends, the digital equipment they used for screenings will remain in place at the theater, right alongside its predecessor, the 35 mm projector.

“It’s a piece of history,” Dymalski said. “It’s machinery. It’s really cool. It’s mechanical. It’s been around for many, many years.”

It’s an old projector now considered outdated in the age of digital, but one that is still a bright light in a small Park City theater.

“Vinyl is coming back. I don’t know if 35 will ever come,” Dymalski said. “It’ll probably still be here in some form, though.”