DANVILLE — When Tracie Shearer oversaw the renovation and reopening of the Royal Theater here in 2001, after years of closure and disrepair, the first movie screened there was "It's a Wonderful Life."
The theme of that film - a town rallying around one of its own - is pertinent to this landmark 12 years later.
Shearer is undertaking a fundraising campaign to convert the Royal from screening 35 mm prints to digital. That entails buying a new projector with a server. Sound equipment will also need upgrading. Shearer estimates the total cost to be between $50,000 and $60,000.
"That's too much money for us to pay and expect to make back," she said.
It's still uncertain when the conversion will be complete. Shearer has heard it could be by the end of this year, maybe sooner. Part of it depends on Kodak, a major manufacturer of film prints that's currently going through bankruptcy.
All of the major movie theater chains have already converted to digital technology. Many of the independent film houses like the Royal have begun the process. That means not as many film prints are being made because of less demand, making it tougher to find newly-released movies.
Shearer has mostly avoided that problem so far, but time is running out. She started a digital change challenge on Jan. 2 by asking fans on the theater's Facebook page to donate $10 each. There's also a container at the concession stand where patrons can drop in donations, as well as a PayPal link on their website at RoyalTheaterDanville.info. Shearer said they made more than $100 just at the concession stand one recent weekend, and about $1,500 total in the first week.
"I truly appreciate every $10 that comes in because that's what's making this happen," she said, though adding she's also being realistic. "I know it's not going to be that much every week. Obviously I'm not going to raise $60,000 by asking people for $10 on Facebook."