Retrofitting Yesterday’s Cinemas: Converters and Curtains

The technology of cinemas has come on leaps and bounds in the last few decades.

Usually a key part of most of our briefs, when taking on a cinema restoration, is to somehow retain the spirit of the existing picture house, whilst fitting it with the kind of new, flashy technology that the 21st Century cinema-goer expects.

This constant push-pull between old world and new is what makes our jobs so interesting at every level.

People don’t like to say it, but what they really want out of a cinema is unadulterated nostalgia. You can see it in the constant stream of sequels and reboots that somehow find their way onto our multiplex screens every year. The films that have regularly brought in the biggest crowds over the last few years have either been direct sequels to movies that were released a few months ago, or they’re remakes of properties that were released decades ago.

Think: Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Fast and Furious, James Bond. As much as there are always a wealth of new movies, based on new concepts, that are released each year; the movies that are keeping the big cinema chains afloat are the multi-picture franchise tent poles that find a way of tapping into the inner child of all of us.

What’s the secret to the success of these films? Is it the returning cast members? Is it the familiarity of the setting? Or, perhaps, is it the comforting ambience of an old loved thing that’s been revamped with the very best technology?

We’re inclined to think the latter.

A large part of the work that our technical team sets out to achieve is often as simple as replacing light bulbs.

Old cinemas are full of charm and often quirky in design, however they are also, usually, riddled with inefficiencies. The 70mm theatre we’re currently working on is no exception.

Although the theatre is technically functional now – the projector and seats were fitted a few weeks back – the building is still some way off being complete. After all, there’s a lot more to the cinema experience than just a comfy seat and a beautifully projected movie…

When we’re asked to prepare a tender for a restoration job, we’re always sure to inform the owners that we don’t do anything by half measures. If you’ve got an old rundown cinema, then simply reupholstering the seats is not going to solve all your problems.

Every system in the building should be overhauled, so that the cinema experience is completely revamped for your consumer.

That means installing new lighting systems, replacing ac-dc power supplies, servicing sound systems and even re-thinking the concessions stands.

When your customer comes in, after a 6-month renovation period, you should be able to proudly show them how much has changed, rather than leave them guessing as to which part of the cinema has received special attention.

We are of the belief that vising the cinema should always be a special occasion. These are times that should be cherished and remembered. They should never be humdrum or routine – they should be familiar, at the same time as being fresh new and new.

Just like your favourite blockbuster returning for another crack at box office glory.

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