Crisper pictures, brighter colors, and 3D images are what major movie studios want viewers to see, so in 2009 these corporations announced Digital Conversion, ending the reign of 35mm film and moving on to hard drives and computers. But the added beauty and benefits for the viewer came with a “convert or die” mandate for theaters owners across the country. The National Association of Theater Owners estimates that the screens of roughly 1000 businesses – mostly art house cinemas, single screen theaters, and historic venues – will go black sometime in late 2012 or early 2013.
In 2010 the Odeon Preservation Association(OPA) Board, stewards of the Odeon Theater, began researching the new digital standards and received bids from four audio/video conversion companies around the US. It was immediately clear that the $4 ticket prices used to keep the popcorn popping and air conditioners running wasn’t going to buy the new $100,000 system. At the Johnny Nicolas concert in the fall of 2011, the pending equipment crisis was announced and the Odeon’s Digital Conversion Fund Raising effort began. Dennis Evans, Board VP and Chuck Patrick, Special Adviser to the Board, became a two-man fund raising committee, determined to get the word out and bring to light what a unique and critical roll the Odeon plays in the community. Upon hearing that the Odeon might shut its doors, Mason locals, weekend Masonites, former Mason residents, and concerned out-of-towners who appreciate the treasure that is the Odeon began to make $100, $1000, and $2500 donations. In the very short period of only six months, after donations made during the wonderfully successful Jaston Williams workshop, the Odeon Board finally had the funds to bring our cinema into the digital age.
For the last two weeks representatives from two different companies, Sonic Equipment Company and Master Audio Visuals, have been busy installing the cutting edge equipment. The Odeon’s new 100 pound projector is capable of displaying digital movies up to 45ft wide (twice the Odeon’s size) in full cinema high definition. A new computer will allow for the trailers, local advertising, and movies to be smoothly automated, and closed-captioning for a hearing impaired audience can be turned on. The new digitally compatible movie screen has a higher reflectivity index which helps produce a sharper, brighter movie image. Now, the new screen can automatically be raised and lowered, effectively doubling the performance area on the Odeon stage.
While most of this work has been completed, there remains some finishing up that includes installing masking curtains and additional audio equipment. Now that the movie screen can be raised, the Odeon can better accommodate its roll as a multi-purpose performance and event space. With the Odeon capable of supporting live music concerts, public lectures, stage performances, and movies there is a whole new spectrum of foundation grants for which OPA can apply. These grants and future charitable donations will hopefully soon lead to new curtains along the back wall, professional stage lighting, the opening up and restoration of the historic balcony, expansion and improvements to the stage, and an upgrade in seating.
The Odeon Theater is among a rare handful of small-town theaters which have been fortunate enough to adapt to this new technology. Spider Johnson, President of the Odeon Preservation Association, said, “Without the generous donations from concerned patrons of the Odeon, the theater would have had to close its doors. With these major new improvements, the Odeon will continue to serve the public for many years to come. We are honored and privileged to serve the citizens of Mason and our many visitors.”
The Odeon is offering a FREE matinee show at 2:00 on Saturday, June 16th To show the movie “Impasse” a movie set and filmed in the Texas Hill Country. For further information and schedules, or for private reservation of the theater, please go to the website, http://TheOdeonTheater.com.