Monday, June 13, 2011

You Can Get (Almost) Anything in Vegas...

As the saying goes, you can get anything, anytime in Las Vegas...except a 35 mm projector.

A little over a week ago, I was in Las Vegas. Las Vegas has the reputation of being an entertainment mecca and perhaps that is true if you want to see Celine Dion, Blue Man Group or Cirque du Soleil. As far as movies go, Vegas is the land of the multiplex. There must be close to 200 screens in the Las Vegas metropolitan area and on any given week, they probably screen 15 unique films between them. In other words, every cineplex is playing the same film(s)...on multiple screens. I don't believe there is a single screen theater left in Vegas.

In late May, it was with some surprise I read that the Henderson Symphony Orchestra was performing the live orchestration to a screening of Charlie Chaplin's City Lights on Friday, June 3. I didn't know Henderson had an orchestra and I certainly didn't expect a screening of City Lights.

As I was reading the Las Vegas Review Journal article previewing the screening, I was dumbstruck by this sentence. "The film is being projected by a 35mm projector used during the times of the original film," [a Henderson spokesman] said. "The film industry switched over to digital film projection years ago, and the old projectors are hard to come by. We were unable to find this type of projector in Southern Nevada but were able to rent one from Hollywood (to show the film Friday)."

Call me an elitist or cinematic snob but I was not aware that 35 mm projectors were so hard to come by. It seems like every theater I go to in the Bay Area has not one but two 35 mm projectors in the booth. Considering how many screens there are in Las Vegas, it's amazing that all of them have converted to digital and that they didn't keep a 35 mm around. The University of Nevada at Las Vegas didn't have one? They offer a Bachelor of Arts in Film at the institution.

Then I wondered why they chose City Lights. The film was released in 1931 with a full soundtrack including scoring and sound effects but no dialogue. Why not choose one of Chaplin's silent films?

The most amazing part of the article was "Tickets are $10." Do you hear that San Francisco Silent Film Festival? The audience was treated to a philharmonic with over 60 musicians for 10 bucks!

According to Bethany Swain's post on the Henderson Symphony's Facebook page, the official ticket count was 1,217 which puts it on par with the SF Silent Film Festival's better attended screenings. Perhaps this will lead to more film projects by the Henderson Symphony. By the way, Swain is a cellist in the Henderson Symphony.

No comments: