One movie stands above all the rest in the 17-year history of Broadway Cinemas.
"Titanic," said Zeph Pye, projectionist.
"Titanic," agreed manager Annette Pye, almost simultaneously. "Titanic was the biggest."
"It was here for 12 weeks," Zeph recalled.
"We even had an intermission because it was so long," Annette smiled. "People had to have a 10-minute break, which helped the snack bar."
Other movies have made a splash, Zeph said, like Lord of the Rings, but none reached Titanic's epic popularity in 1997-98.
But Titanic was not shown in Tillsonburg on a digital projector with Dolby 5.1 sound. That upgrade did not happen at Broadway Cinemas until July 2013.
"You get a much brighter picture with the digital," said Zeph. "With usage and everything else, there's usually scratches on the screen with 35 mm. Digital eliminates the splicing of the film. Running through the machine, there were all kinds of issues. Sometimes the prints would have colour flaws, and I haven't seen any issues with that so far with digital. In the past, sometimes we had to have complete reels replaced. I remember one time we had a reel come in with the wrong soundtrack.
"The sound is terrific," Zeph added, noting sound technology will be moving to 7.1 at some point. "It's good sound, comparable to what a Cineplex is running. Our regular customers, right away, said, 'what have you done, have you replaced the sound?' It was all positive. For the most part, people are kind of getting used to it now – and expecting it.
"It would be nice to get some more local people out. I don't know if everyone is aware that we have digital with surround sound yet. Sound is a big part of all movies now, and I'm thinking maybe now when people realize we have digital movies, we'll start bringing them back."
Admission prices, a major attraction for attending small theatres, along with less travel time, are still affordable at $8 for adults and $6 for children. Tuesdays are $5 and there is a special senior rate at Broadway.
Part of a theatre's success comes from movie selection, and that's where new owner Kent Rapley excels, said business developer Jim Carroll.
"Kent (Rapley) really tracks carefully how movies are doing in small towns," said Carroll. "We're about 50 per cent on the break – when you open a movie – and about 50 per cent off the break. You want to open a Hunger Games... they'll have a special showing on a Thursday. That kind of show has its own special following – they want to see it right when it comes out."
Other movies, said Carroll, like The King's Speech, did not have big fanfare when it came out, but had a good run a couple months after it was released.
"I think we showed it for 5-6 weeks here, and to full houses."
Some movies, like Frozen, which was shown for nearly two months, have longer runs because they are popular with kids and families.
"That Disney animated movie's had a lot of legs," Carroll laughed.
"Kent really does a great job choosing family friendly movies, and also the best movies, the ones that are being nominated for awards. Kent really wants full theatres – that's his goal. I would say he tracks them really well in small towns, sees what kind of business doing North America wide, but the blockbusters, he tries to open."
"If we've got good movies, we've got good turnout," said Pye. "Especially kids movies, because it's a nice getaway with the family. You've got to see it on the big screen, it really does make a difference. The kids are always going to remember that."
There are plans to revive a Film Festival theme at Broadway Cinemas. Once a month, from February to November, they will bring in a Toronto Film Festival film.
"The times will be Sunday at 4 p.m., and Mondays at 2 and 7," Carroll noted.
"Another neat thing is we're going to bring back some classic movies. They'll show at the same times, same cost. Like Sound of Music, Godfather, Raiders of the Lost Ark... movies that are so much better when seen in a theatre. You can watch them on TV, you can get a DVD, but to see it on a big screen and be surrounded by people, you go back to your theatre experience.
"So we're going to have 10 classic movies a year, and try to get the diffferent genres – try to get some Oscar winners. Hopefully people will say, 'you know what, I want to go see that.' There are people in every community who are interested in seeing those kinds of films. They just need to know they are available and reasonably priced. So 10 of them a year, 10 classics, what better entertainment can you get for that price without having drive too far?"
Hmmm, Titanic, anyone?