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Sylvia Theater debuts digital projector, raises nearly $13K

The more-than-100-year-old Sylvia Theater in York is reaching out for community support as it returns to its movie theater roots with 21st-century technology.

Update: The Sylvia Theater passed its $12,800 online fundraising goal around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Charlotte singer/songwriter Paul Finnican, owner of the historic theater, said the Sylvia recently installed a $50,000 digital theater projector, which allows it to show current films such as the new Angelina Jolie movie, “Maleficent.”

“We’ve upgraded and we’re ready to be a movie theater forever now,” he said.

Finnican said the 200-seat theater has launched a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of $12,800 in presold theater packages that include movie tickets, sodas, popcorn, T-shirts and other promotion items.

The packages, which include six levels of support and vary in cost as widely as $24 to $748 and more, are available at through Saturday; search for Sylvia Theater.

“The Kickstarter is trying to get a lot of people to come back and see the picture. It’s really clear, it’s a good picture,” he said.

The base package, at $24 or more, includes four movie theater tickets, four popcorns and four drinks. The sales will be final only if the theater reaches its goal by Saturday’s deadline, Finnican said. As of Friday, more than $9,500 worth of packages had been sold.

“If we reach the goal, that means we will have presold 1,500 or so movie tickets, so we’re anticipating the entire downtown will see a tremendous amount of activity if this happens,” Finnican said. “We hope it really creates a lot of buzz, a lot of activity, for downtown York.”

Finnican said the theater, which was forced to stop showing movies as the industry moved away from film to digital projectors, was able to resume showing movies in early July.

He said the installation of a digital projector, which cost around $125,000 in 2008, was not financially feasible for the theater a few years ago.

However, he said, those costs have come down.

“The technology got better,” Finnican said. “We had to wait until all the big Regals of the world got done buying theirs. And now most of the big multi-plexes have their digital projectors, so the smaller theaters can get a better deal.”

Finnican said the Sylvia will show six movies a week, with one show on Thursday and Sunday and two shows on Friday and Saturday.

“We have access now to any movie we want,” he said.

Shannon Savee, new general manager of the Sylvia, said the audiences are growing and feedback from customers has been good.

“People are really excited about what we are doing,” Savee said. “The fact is that we have the same quality of pictures as Manchester Village, and our prices are half of what they charge.”

Savee said the theater is still targeting families, but it can reach a broader audience. She said customers are letting her know what they want to see.

“We can request the movies we get based on what our people want,” Savee said.

She also said the theater plans to resume live music in September. She said music will probably be offered Friday and Saturday nights after the movie.

Finnican said the theater’s focus will be on Hollywood favorites. “It’s opened the door to more content, a better variety of movies,” he said.

Finnican, who bought the theater in 2001 and undertook two major renovations, said the films shown by the theater are delivered in a hard drive with codes.

However, he said, the digital projector gives the theater the eventual capability to bring in shows by satellite with the use of a dish.

“It’s the cat’s meow for a small theater,” Finnican said. “This is the best projector you can get.”