When Main Street screens at the Carolina Theatre this weekend, audiences will find a new-ish movie house.
For the bulk of the summer, the Carolina has been closed for renovations funded by the second phase of a 2005 bond valued at $1.8 million. The work has been designed to bring the theater up to date in both its appearance and its technology.
"It's been about 20 years since we've had work done like this," says Aaron Bare, the theater's director of marketing and communication. "We think everyone's going to be excited when they walk in and see what's been done."
The renovation process has been nicknamed "the Face-lift" by Carolina Theatre employees (a previous set of repairs to the HVAC and leaky roof was nicknamed "the Heart Transplant"). The changes are primarily cosmetic, with a new coat of paint, patched plaster and other upgrades regularly chronicled on the Carolina Theatre's blog (most recent headline: "We've got more new carpet!").
Other changes update the audience experience significantly. Bare says that they've upgraded the sound in the cinemas and Fletcher Auditorium, including adding speakers to Fletcher's balconies. An additional upgrade, paid for outside of the initial bond, sees new high-quality digital projectors for all three screening rooms.
"We're going to be a 35 mm house as long as we can possibly be, but the reality is that the world is changing," says Bare. "At our film festivals, these films are digital, and we have to keep up."
That change has also extended to the theater's marketing. Bare says that in addition to the renovation blog, the theater has bolstered its marketing department and "really stepped up our social networking."
Though Bare says that the Carolina Theatre rarely has to compete with the Durham Performing Arts Center for the same shows and speakers, he admits that DPAC and the Carolina are working hard to "rehabilitate" the image Durham might hold in the eyes of many Raleigh audiences—one that Main Street hardly dispels.
"Sometimes, even after all this time, it's still hard to get people to come to Durham—there's this reputation that it's not safe," Bare says. "We think that's changing."
Overall, Bare says the renovations went smoothly. "There were definitely challenges, but you always want to make the best of them," Bare says.
"It's always a challenge when the revenue stops coming in, but when you look at the cost of not having this, it more than evens out.
"The city gets a better building, and we get a better place to do business. It really is a win-win."
As for Main Street's less-than-stellar reviews, Bare says he hasn't seen the film, but feels it's appropriate for the grand reopening. "We just see ourselves as a place to show films, and this is definitely an important film to Durham. Where else should it premiere but here?"