Sunrise Reaches Digital Goal
First-run movies will continue at the Sunrise Theater now that enough money has been raised to convert the theater's production system from film to digital.
"We're over the top sooner than expected," said Loretta Aldridge, president of the Sunrise Preservation Group (SPG). "We were running out of time because Hollywood is going to stop using celluloid soon."
Aldridge said a recent $10,000 anonymous gift pushed the fundraising effort to about $67,000, the amount needed to install "Digital Cinema" equipment.
"We're appreciative of everybody that contributed, whether they gave $1 or $10,000," she said. "The community support has been phenomenal. It's just like a political campaign - the little donors are just as important to the effort as the big donors."
The new system will also allow the Sunrise to continue offering independent films, and will work with its current satellites and receivers to project high definition programs such as "Met Opera: Live in HD."
"We're just extremely excited because we really did not think it would happen this soon," Aldridge said. "We thought we could get it done by summer."
Theater officials initially estimated that the conversion would cost $70,000 to $85,000, but the final cost came in lower than expected. The new equipment is scheduled to be installed this summer.
SPG Treasurer Craig Pryor said the group received an anonymous $20,000 donation from a foundation Tuesday, and he has inquired about applying it to future projects.
"No one even knows this foundation, so somebody in town has connections," Pryor said. "We've got a six-page prioritized task list. We have tentatively called it the Sunrise Theater Capital Improvement and Safety campaign. We're asking this foundation if we can redeploy the funds to kick off that campaign."
Pryor said the new campaign will take years to fund and complete because it will require at least a six-figure investment.
"We'd like to take a day to celebrate the successful end of our Digital Cinema campaign before launching a new one," he said. "It's obvious that the community values what the Sunrise does, and we hope that their fabulous support continues."
The Digital Cinema campaign was launched last fall after longtime Sunrise supporter and former SPG board member Ron Sutton informed the board that Hollywood was going to stop distributing celluloid films as early as 2014.
The board voted to begin immediately adding an optional $1 donation to the first-run movie ticket price of $7.
"I would say that about 90 percent of our patrons paid $8 rather than $7 during the campaign," Aldridge said. "Now that we've raised the money for the digital conversion we're going to stop the $1 donation. It was a dedicated effort. All of us pulled together to get this done."
The campaign received a big boost last December when the Eugene McDermott Foundation pledged a $25,000 grant. The grant was secured by Sam and Diana Self, who live in Dallas but also own a home in Pinehurst.
Sam Self serves on the McDermott Foundation board. But the grant was named in honor of Diana Self, who grew up in Southern Pines and walked to the Sunrise Theater from her home on Connecticut Avenue on Sunday afternoons in the 1950s to take in a first-run movie for 25 cents.
Triangle Wine Co. donated a portion of the proceeds from its grand opening last December, as did Paul Murphy from his family's Christmas concert at the Sunrise. And a portion of each ticket sold for the theater's Raise the Roof concert earlier this month went to the campaign.
"Time and time again, supporters of the Sunrise stepped to the plate and helped us complete needed projects," Aldridge said Monday. "The Digital Cinema campaign is just the latest example of their generosity. I love the Sunrise, and it's obvious that they believe the theater is a great community asset as well."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@the pilot.com.
More like this story