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Walk of fame: Sidewalk stars crown North Bend's ‘Save Our Theatre’ campaign

Owners Jim and Cindy Walker hold one of the granite stars used for the top-level donors to North Bend Theatre’s digital upgrade project. The stars went into the sidewalk in May.  - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo
Owners Jim and Cindy Walker hold one of the granite stars used for the top-level donors to North Bend Theatre’s digital upgrade project. The stars went into the sidewalk in May.
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

“Isn’t it cool?” Cindy Walker asks.

The North Bend Theatre owner is justly proud of her new digital projector.

Its high-tech computer system and 4,000-watt bulb took the local moviehouse out of the old days of film and into the modern era.

Bought with the assistance of Walker’s neighbors and customers, this $100,000 machine shows how much locals love the business.

A year ago, in the “Save Our Theatre” campaign, locals crowdfunded that amount to upgrade the theater’s projection system to digital, and preserve its independence.

Last month, the theater finalized that effort, installing 23-inch granite stars as a walk of fame, honoring the biggest donors.

The sidewalk in front of the movie theater now honors the “Hollywood Star” level donors (see inset).

MidMountain Contractors installed the stars as a donation.

In total, 613 people donated $107,375 over 14 months to give the local movie theater a new lease on life. You can read testimonials to the project at http://www.gofundme.com/northbendtheatre.

With the funds left over from the drive, Walker plans future improvements.

New generation

“We got there fast,” during Save Our Theatre, Walker said.

It took just four months from start to finish, and the new projector and accompanying equipment were in by mid-September.

“Isn’t it so exciting,” said Walker, “to have it in and done, you know you can focus on other things?”

Installing the new projector last fall, the theater shut down for two days, interrupting the run of “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.”

New sound processors were part of the upgrade. They send better movie sounds to the theater’s 14 speakers. The Walkers also took the time to repaint the floor, a needed annual maintenance fix.

When shows resumed, customers noticed—especially during the annual Mountain Film Festival.

“A full HD (high-definition) show with a really bright bulb makes the film visibly better,” Walker said. “Gone are the scratches down the center… the jumping, the yellow dots from splicing.

“Now, it’s just a beautiful, clean crisp picture,” Walker said.

New technology is definitely an improvement on the old.

“Nobody misses splicing,” Walker said. “Nobody misses shredded film.”

The theater’s projectionist, Xury Greer, has trained staff to run the new system, which is essentially like using a computer. Starting shows is down to a few button presses in the booth.

“Short of that, there’s an app on my phone. I can start it wherever I’m at,” Walker said.

Movies come on hard drives now. Greer loads them onto a three-terabyte drive in the projector, complete with trailers, then programs the sequence, which can vary by day and time.

Greer and other theater employees got an introduction to this business from their video classes at Mount Si High School.

“They’re getting an education there that I don’t have,” Walker said.

The booth at North Bend Theatre has seen a lot of changes. Until 2013, the main medium was film, and huge reels rolled through the projectors, winding from heavy platters. A projectionist had to painstakingly splice reels of film together to create the movie.

All that heavy-metal equipment used in those older generations of technology is now useless.

“Right now, I’ve got a junkyard,” said Walker. “There’s no market for it. They’re a dime a dozen because everybody got rid of them.”

The theater is still pondering going full 3-D, but for now, the future looks bright.

Freedom of choice

One of the things that makes North Bend Theatre special is its freedom. Walker can do shows that big chains can’t.

Before the campaign began, she had the option of allowing a company to step in and make the digital upgrade for free—sort of.

“They would buy the projector for you, but they control it. We said, ‘No, thank you. We’re going to see if we can raise the money ourselves,’” Walker said.

Like the big chains, first-run shows and family movies pay the bills. They bring in groups, and help move the popcorn and soda, that with a portion of ticket sales—a big chunk of your admission fee goes to distributors—make up the small theater’s revenue.

“There’s not a lot of other family activities around that people can do, especially when the weather is inclement,” says Walker.

She loves the option to try other kinds of movies, from documentaries to biopics to old classics.

“For an adult film, it has to have buzz,” to be successful in North Bend, she said.

“The independent things we do are what make people love the theater. It’s the soul of it,” Walker said.

Theatre’s stars

During last year’s “Save our Theatre” campaign, the following businesses and individuals donated at the $2,500 level, and are now recognized with granite stars set into the sidewalk in front of North Bend Theatre:

• Unity Masonic Lodge 198

• The “Five Ls”

• Boxley Music Fund

• Danny and Robyn Kolke

• The Walker family

• Snoqualmie Cattle Co.

• Bartell Drug

• Staff and Friends of North Bend Theatre

• The Hall Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors

• Jeff Warren State Farm Insurance, with wife Theresa and daughter Kylie

• You can learn more about North Bend Theatre at northbendtheatre.com.

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