By ED SALVAS
When the Beach Cinema in Bradley Beach opened in 1925, it was called the Palace, and the films were silent and in black an white.
Movie goers today will discover a 21st century theater, updated with state-of-the-art digital projection and enhanced with Surround Sound as the Beach Cinema completes an upgrade to digital to remain in business.
“I’ve been told we had to do this for three years now” said owner John Esposito, who said the Beach Cinema is one of the last movie houses in Monmouth and Ocean counties to still be showing movies on film.
“If we didn’t do it by the end of summer, we’d have to close,” he said. “In the last few months, we’ve had to show whatever was available and by the end of summer, prints will be gone,” even for the classics.
The Beach Cinema closed after the March 16 shows and the conversion started Mon., March 17. One of the two old 35 mm projectors will be taken out and replaced by a smaller unit and adjusted to the screen, which will remain. The company handling the changeover will also install the new Surround Sound system, consisting of 14 speakers, three located behind the screen, so the audience will immediately notice the better sound quality. In fact, he said the Surround Sound works better in a larger theater than in a small auditorium. The Beach Cinema seats about 500 people.
Esposito said the major studios have been gradually eliminating film prints for several years and he resisted the change as long as he could but realized in recent weeks he was missing out on some popular films that were only available digitally. Two films he tried to book, “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Dallas Buyer’s Club,” both Academy Award nominees, were not available.
One of the advantages of digital films is how they are delivered to the theater. Esposito said he’ll download the movie onto a computer hard drive . A “key”” or password will allow him to show it. When the scheduled run ends, the “Key” then locks the film and it’s eventually erased. Esposito says the conversion will cost about $70,000.
He plans to show off the new system by showing two popular new releases, “Non- Stop,” a suspense thriller starring Liam Neeson, and the Biblical Epoch, “Noah,” starring Russell Crowe, which will be a first run feature.
Beach Cinema photo courtesy of www.bradley-beach.com.