Patio Theatre, Chicago, status of digital projector fund

From the via New York member Biff Buttler

Today In Kickstarter Campaigns: The Patio Theater’s Digital Projection Upgrade

2012_6_21_patio.jpg Photo Credit: celticshelter

It only seems like a year ago the Patio Theater on the Northwest side sprung back to life after a decade of disrepair. In fact, it’s been nearly 13 months. Since re-opening we’ve developed a soft spot for the Patio that’s runs nearly as deep as the one we have for the Portage Theater.

Like the Portage, the Patio is in danger of being shuttered again, but not because a church wants to convert it into a house of worship. Owner Demetrios Kouvalis is in the same position as scores of second-run theater owners across the country and has to upgrade the Patio’s projection system to accommodate for the transition of Hollywood studios to digital. Multiplex chains such as AMC, Landmark and Regal can easily embrace the switch because they can buy digital projectors in bulk and, as Kouvalis noted, they’re also receiving incentives and financial plans from outside parties or the film studios themselves to make the switch.

Roger Ebert has spent a lot of time writing about the switch and, even though he saw the transition coming two decades ago, has been taken aback by how fast the major studios have embraced digital. And it’s economically feasible for them to do so. It’s simpler to reproduce digital prints than to strike them onto 35mm film, saving the studios nearly a billion dollars a year. For the multiplex chains it means they don’t need to hire projectionists.

Second-run theaters who can’t afford the $50,000-$100,000 to make the upgrade find themselves with the prospect of having to shut their doors, a problem that’s particularly affecting rural theaters.

So Kouvalis, like many entrepreneurs, has taken to Kickstarter to raise funds for a digital projection upgrade. Kouvalis has budgeted the upgrade at $70,000, $50,000 of which he hopes to raise via Kickstarter. So far he’s raised less than $24,000, but if you take a look at what’s being offered with specific pledge levels, you may be motivated to pitch in yourself.

A pledge of $250 gets you and 19 of your friends a private screening of the movie of your choice (if it’s available for screening). A $500 pledge gets you two 20-pass admissions. And if Kouvalis can reach his goal it also allows him to get rid of a 50-year-old movie screen and upgrade to one that allows viewers to see films more vividly.

There are 29 days left in this Kickstarter campaign. Don’t dawdle. (Full Disclosure: I walked the walk and pledged $100 to the campaign.)

Contact the author of this article or email with further questions, comments or tips


  1. Whoa! This is NOT a not-for-profit business! The Music Box put in two digital projectors last year and they paid for it out of their proceeds from ticket sales. Where does Kouvalis get off on asking for donations to his business? He needs to sell some tickets to make a profit and reinvest his profit to the benefit of his patrons. If he can’t sell tickets, has no patrons, then the business will fail. Digital projection is not an overnight phenomena, it’s been coming for a decade. Now it’s here, but it’s no surprise. Please give me some money too.

  2. I will root for the Patio. And, for those who generously part with $250 or $500, their rewards seem to perfectly fair. It isn’t easy for marginal operations to afford the costs of conversion.

    • Gee Howard, where were you years ago, when our place was getting going, In the eighties, it would have never occurred to us ask people for money that we didn’t intend on paying back. Kouvalis has lots of apartments and stores in that building and since he is the owner, a very low interest loan could easily be attained against the property to finance this upgrade, without going out begging. But, hey — times have changed everyone is begging, so maybe he’s the smart one! I hope you get your moneys worth of satisfaction. After all, that’s what it’s all about!

      Happy Fourth!

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