Cable Car Cinema Facing Required Digital Upgrade

Movie studios are forcing arthouse cinemas to upgrade to a DCI compliant digital projection system or risk no longer being able to play their beloved movies.


Did you know, the use of thirty-five millimeter film is becoming obsolete, even in arthouse cinemas? Providence’s Cable Car Cinema received a dreaded letter in November 2011 from 20th Century Fox urging them to upgrade to a DCI compliant digital projection system or risk no longer being able to play their beloved movies. Other motion picture studios are following suit. By the end of 2013, this type of film will be phased out or restricted, so the race is on for Providence’s treasured theater to raise enough money for a digital upgrade, so they can continue showing independent films you can’t see elsewhere.

They’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign, and so far $13,102 has been raised toward their $48,500 goal. They’ve also created a clever fundraising video spoof that plays off depression medication advertisements. It’s a must-watch!

The theater has been operating since 1976 in what used to be an old garage, where an old cable car had been left behind. It has been owned by husband-and-wife team Daniel Kamil and Emily Steffian since 2008, and was named a National Marquee Theater and even earned a spot in Entertainment Weekly’s list of the ten best cinemas in America. From the beginning, it has been family-owned and it still is, says Steffian. “It has a life of ownership of people who really care about the business, as opposed to a larger entity,” she says.

The main reason for the required upgrade is financial and it also involves piracy and quality issues. “It is financially less expensive to make a digital product, and also when it comes to shipping and receiving,” Steffian says. Film will be released in a coded hard drive that will only be able to be viewed a certain number of allotted times. It’s also a quality issue, because many of the films that come in have been shown so many times, they’re beaten up.

The Cable Car Cinema is one of the only places in the state where film-lovers can view independent films. “This is a litmus test to see what the single-screen arthouse means to the community,” Steffian says. “The cinema provides a place for film that’s not backed by multi-million-dollar entities. Viewers won’t see this programming otherwise, and it allows people who don’t have money behind them to have a voice for what they do.”

Help them reach their goal!

204 South Main St., Providence, 272-3970,

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