A new generation of movie fans, both young and old, are experiencing 'the next generation' of technology at Broadway Cinemas in Tillsonburg.
Broadway Cinemas opened in June 1996 and has had various owners since, until Kent and Cindy Rapley, who were minority owners, bought it in the spring of 2013. The husband and wife team also own The Strand Theatre in Simcoe, which they had bought about six years ago.
"The last owners had a big decision to make," said manager Annette Pye, who has been with Broadway Cinemas in various capacities since it opened and currently manages a staff of about 13-14 people. "The end of days was nearing for 35 mm print... so it was close the doors or change to the new technology of digital. One of the co-owners stepped up to the plate and did just that."
Broadway Cinemas, which still had its older screens, was upgraded soon after it was purchased by the Rapleys.
"The big thing," said business developer Jim Carroll, "they did what they did at The Strand last January. They put all new digital projectors in, so the sound and picture are basically state of the art. That just makes the picture stand out that much more.
"The move to digital has been happening over the last several years. Basically, you won't be able to show a 35 mm print after... probably some time this year. So, you have to decide. Are you going to close the door? Or put the investment in and go digital?
The Strand Theatre in Simcoe, which had undergone major renovations when the Rapleys bought it six years ago, upgraded to digital in January 2013 and Broadway Cinemas was upgraded in July 2013.
"So they've really done five screens in the last calendar year."
The sound system was also improved in Tillsonburg.
"It's full surround sound," said Carroll. "It's gone from kind of a mono feed to where you have a right, a left, a middle... and it can make the sound appear to move from side to side, from front to back. You get that full immersed feeling and that feeling of being surrounded. Kent is a real stickler for having amazing sound – he's always been about the sound, and of course the picture."
People have commented on the improved brightness of the screen, the crispness of the picture, and the sound.
"Digital is locked right in – it never moves. Sound is actually on a separate channel. I know they've had some people come in to see movies that have a lot of special effects, and they said 'wow this is as good or better than... somewhere where there's a Cineplex.'"
In the next 60 days, said Carroll, Broadway Cinemas will also have all new seats, with a total capacity for 431 people divided among its three theatres, including the largest, Theatre 1.
"I think the seat spacing here is a little more generous compared to some... and with the new seats we'll have larger seats as well. And we're expanding our section to have people in wheelchairs."
"They listened to our customers and are putting in new seats in all our theatres," added Pye. "This takes place in March. And we will be installing TVs in our lobby to promote advertising. Customers can enjoy trailers while waiting in line or enjoying popcorn."
"I think Tillsonburg or any small town is very lucky to have its own movie theatre," Pye summed up. "Many thanks to Kent and Cindy for keeping Broadway Cinemas open."
"We're hoping to have a Grand Re-Opening some time in March," said Carroll, anticipating the seat installation in late February or early March.