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Sands Theatre in Brush makes the leap into the digital age with a new film projector

The new projector that Joe Machetta has been waiting for has finally arrived. The owner of the Sands -- focus of the cover story "Can the Sands Theatre survive digital conversion?" -- was looking at a questionable future for the movie house he's been running in Brush since 1958. But with the helping hand of local nonprofit Downtown Colorado Inc. and its Save Our Screens campaign and the robust support of the Brush community, the Sands recently made the pricey conversion to a digital cinema projection system. And now the lights will stay on.

See also: Save Our Screens wants the show to go on at rural cinemas, like the Sands in Brush

Bromance/frat-comedy Neighbors was the first movie shown with the new digital cinema projection system last month. "We're experimenting with getting this thing all put together right -- it's not as easy as I thought it was going to be, but I will eventually pick up on it, I think," Machetta says.

The old Super Simplex 35-millimeter projector had been a fixture in the theater since before Machetta took it over in '50s (he estimates the projector was from the late '30s or early '40s), running well through its decades of use. But the new digital replacement has found a perfect place inside the Sands, and the Brush Chamber of Commerce's Save Our Sands Facebook page has been diligently keeping track of the changeover with lots of photo updates.

Roger Bockert, owner of Heartland Theatre Services, did the installation of the digital system on the Sands Theatre -- one of hundreds he's done over the last half-decade. He says he jumped at the chance to be trained to do these transitions early on, but now sees business slowing as most theaters have converted to digital.

As the old 35mm projectors, the future is grim. "There is literally no value to them; we've had theaters who have given them to museums, but even a lot of the museums don't want them," says Bockert. "The projectors are pretty much scrap, which seems odd. But there are not really any collectors of this old stuff out there at all."

Even with the new system, it's business as usual at the Sands. "When you make a big change like this after all these years, there's a lot to go through," says Machetta. "I just want everything to look right."

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