Hettinger Theater goes high-techHettinger takes pride in its theater and thanks to community support, the Hettinger Theater is going digital and 3D, which means higher quality and crispness in movies and patrons won’t have to wait weeks to see new films.
Hettinger takes pride in its theater and thanks to community support, the Hettinger Theater is going digital and 3D, which means higher quality and crispness in movies and patrons won’t have to wait weeks to see new films.
“Admission stays the same but the quality of the picture is way up,” Theater Manager Terry Spratta said.
Friday night it all comes together with the first showing of a film on the new digital 3D system that has been in the works for months. Partially funded through grants and donations, when installed recently the $126,000 system was among two in the world; the other in New York City, Adams County Development Corp. Executive Director Ed Gold said.
It started when the theater received notice from Walt Disney Co. that it would no longer supply 35 mm film. The community decided it was time to take action. The Development Corp. requested a $99,211 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for digital equipment and a new screen. The grant was approved in June.
The theater is community-funded and there’s a seven-member board of directors. Spratta and five to six others are the only paid employees.
The Theater Foundation Board came up with the rest for the project through a $16,000 loan for the addition of 3D and raised another $11,000 through donations. And donations are still trickling in, Spratta said, adding an anonymous donor recently provided funds for the first 150 3D glasses patrons will need to have an eye-popping experience.
The Development Corp. and Hettinger Theater are hosting an invite-only inspection of the theater’s new system along with a question and answer session at 6 p.m. Friday.
“How to Train a Dragon” will be the first chance to see a 3D film in digital at the theater. Admission will be charged for the 7:30 p.m. Friday showing.
The community takes care of its theater because it is responsible for getting a functioning theater back in Hettinger after going without for a number of years, Spratta said. About eight years ago, residents pushed to get a theater back in town and came together to purchase the building. Donations and volunteer labor helped open its doors.
“There is a lot of community pride in the theater because there is some ownership,” Spratta said, adding residents look out for its wellbeing. He uses the example that if someone has their muddy feet up on a chair, someone else will have no qualms about asking them to put them down.
This enhanced system only adds to that pride.
“By going digital we are able to maintain our theater for the long term, which is what we wanted to do — which is a cornerstone for the economic
development of our city,” Gold said.
Digital theaters closest to Hettinger are hundreds of miles away, including in Bismarck and Rapid City, S.D., he said.
Board President Dr. Lisa Henderson said the most trying part of the project has been paperwork and a “little red tape” but said overall it’s been exciting to be such “a little community and we have such a progressive theater.”
Word of mouth is gold and she hopes that gold helps draw visitors from other cities. “Our goal is just to keep going and keep improving.”
Another benefit of the new system is film availability on its opening day, Gold said. With film they’d have to wait up to three weeks after a movie’s first run to get it.
The old equipment is stored at the theater and though it may be a tough sell because theaters elsewhere are also converting, it’s for sale, Spratta said.
The theater is at 113 N. Main St.