Local movie theater demonstrates a new era in cinema presentation

Cranford's Digiplex Theatre Photo Credit: Bryan Kuriawa

Cranford’s Digiplex Theatre
Photo Credit: Bryan Kuriawa

By Bryan Kuriawa

In a modestly-lit theater, audiences calmly walk towards their seats, sitting in casual clothing and positioning themselves towards the screen. Chatting among themselves, one would assume that they were seeing an everyday movie presentation. Yet as the lights dim and the audience members become situated, the results are quite the opposite.

Presented live from New York City is a full-scale production of the famous opera, “Il Trovatore,” slowly chiming through the theater’s sound system. Slowly the movie theater transforms into that of a live theater, as the beautiful musical strains progress onward.

At Cranford’s Digiplex Theater, since 2010, audiences have been treated to a constant viewing of cinema, international, independent and occasional glimpses of mainstream releases. Through these films, the management at this location has attempted to demonstrate a versatility and interest beyond conventional releases.

“I think it’s good we show independent films because it is a good change of pace from the Hollywood blockbusters,” said Digiplex theater chain employee Kevin Fette.

This recent transition towards more limited and independent cinema in Cranford, and around the country, has demonstrated a change by theater chains in expanding their weekly release calendars to include a wider and similarly more diverse collection of film.

Yet at the same time, such ideas can also be applied to a different concept that has also begun to sweep through theaters.

Since December of 2006, the Metropolitan Opera has begun a stream of live broadcasts to theaters around the United States, with the idea of continuing a steady stream of new content for cinema audiences.

During these broadcasts, the shows feature a thirty minute intermission and also show behind the scenes footage featuring the performers and production staff during the show’s development. Along with the Met broadcasts; classic film retrospectives, including Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” art exhibits, and events featuring radio personalities in live programs have been featured to attract a wider audience.

Events such as these have shown a progressive change in how audiences have viewed theaters, as the heads of such chains attempt to gain a grasp of what audiences truly enjoy.

This held especially true with a recent nationwide screening of the 1997 action film, “Starship Troopers” by the comedy commentary group, Rifftrax. Broadcast to a nationwide audience, this “release” proved a success in itself and once again demonstrated to theater chain owners the possibilities of this format. Yet for the time being, most of the broadcasts in production are for live operas and art presentations such as a recent display of artifacts from the Pompeii volcanic eruption of 79 A.D.

“We are starting a new season of Metropolitan Operas,” Fette said. “I think it’s a good sign of things to come.”

While the Metropolitan opera presentations and concerts have remained the prominent draw for theater chains undertaking this new format, this may change within the next year or so. Audiences have continued to view such events and with the continued increase of ticket sales, it seems eventually all theaters may undertake these events, not only a rare few.

“I feel we are very fortunate to be showing these events,” Fette said. “In some cases, this may be their only chance to see it, they get an opportunity, no other movie theater offers.”


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