Isla Vista Theater, home of Magic Lantern Films and Kinotek, has recently dropped their film projector for a digital one, drawing back the curtain on traditional 35mm prints.
Magic Lantern Films has been screening movies for more than 11 years, and its Friday night showings are a mainstay for IV moviegoers. The organization’s moniker comes from IV Theater’s original name in the 1970s: Magic Lantern Theater. The Director of Magic Lantern Films, D.J. Palladino, commented that the old theater was a popular destination in IV and “really a scene.”
The magic of both institutions has since been revived, and with the introduction of a new digital projector, IV Theater has once again been updated for a modern audience. The recent showings of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy are expected to show off the theater’s new technological upgrade.
The debate between digital vs. film projection is a hot one. Director Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained) blasted the technology at the Cannes Film Festival, claiming it to be the demise of traditional movie making, but others hold digital cinema projection as a necessary update in the modern theater experience. Palladino said, “There’s not a house in Santa Barbara showing 35mm. It’s gone.”
The phasing out of film is almost worldwide, with major movie studios backing the digital cinema package, or DCP, format over 35mm. A movie in DCP format is contained on a portable hard drive or USB stick and paired with a special pass code that allows the projectionist to play the film. In comparison to film prints, this format is drastically less expensive for both studios and theaters.
In addition to reduced costs, the reliability of digital cinema projection is one its most notable features. While a 35mm print of a movie is susceptible to defects and wear and tear, digital is as just as reliable on its 1000th viewing as its first.
“35mm is beautiful [but] DCP never scratches. It never breaks down,” said Palladino. “If the projectionist screws up… [the movie] just shuts off, it doesn’t get ruined.”
For Palladino, “the crucial experience was Children of Men. We wanted to show it [in 35mm] so bad.” Unfortunately, there were difficulties with the film print that resulted in malfunctioning audio. The problem was only resolved after an assistant at the theater brought in a DVD copy of the movie. Palladino noted that he “didn’t even notice” the switch in formats. After a similar experience with the James Bond flick Skyfall, Palladino said, “That’s it, we’re going digital.”
The update to digital projection didn’t occur without some sentimentality for the century old film format. The change came with a sense of loss.
“[Magic Lantern Films] took a certain pride in showing [35mm] film [but] we had to jump through hoops,” said Palladino. “It was a big hassle.”
Jacob Houchen, a fourth-year film and media studies major, said, “Although I love the feel, look, and sound of older projection styles, all studios have essentially switched to digital only productions, so it’s what the future holds regardless if we want it or not.”
Check out the schedule for Magic Lantern Films through IV Arts at http://www.ihc.ucsb.edu/ivarts/ and see this new technology at work for yourself.