Ohio Theatre owners Tony and Laura Ratcliff talk about movie industry changes that are necessitating a major upgrade to their projection and sound equipment. The financial hurdle is steep and though the Ratcliff’s would like to be further along in the fund-raising process, they have been encouraged by the community support they have received. Below is the old projection equipment — with parts from the 1930s — that will need to be replaced with digital equipment. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Ohio Theatre owners Tony and Laura Ratcliff talk about movie industry changes that are necessitating a major upgrade to their projection and sound equipment. The financial hurdle is steep and though the Ratcliff’s would like to be further along in the fund-raising process, they have been encouraged by the community support they have received. Below is the old projection equipment — with parts from the 1930s — that will need to be replaced with digital equipment. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
The Ohio Theatre is continuing its fundraising campaign to finance the switch to digital projection software, a move that is necessary if the theater wants to continue showing new movies.

Laura and Tony Ratcliff, the owners of the theater, began seeking contributions last August to help cover the cost for the change. The plan is to obtain a loan to cover $150,000 in upgrades. The money will be used to convert to digital projectors and upgrade the sound system and screens.

But the Ratcliffs need $25,000 before they can approach the bank about a loan to cover the upgrade.

"We have a little over ($20,000)," Tony Ratcliff said.

The upgraded technology would give the Ohio Theatre the ability to play 3-D movies and would improve the picture and sound quality, as well as give the theater a larger selection of movies to show.

"We would definitely expand our programming," Tony Ratcliff said.

All the digital equipment that has been installed in other theaters is under an extended-year warranty so there are not any used projection systems to purchase, Tony Ratcliff said.

The upgrade to digital would provide several benefits for the theater and make things easier for the Ratcliffs, but the major obstacle is actually getting the money for the loan.

Hollywood has been responsible for the requirement for all theaters to change to digital because it's cheaper and easier to release a movie in digital fashion as opposed to on actual film. It's estimated that 90 percent of the theaters in the country have already converted to a digital format.

"The only ones that are left are the little guys," Tony Ratcliff said.

The Ratcliffs are already seeing the effects of the digital change-over. For example, the film "Lincoln" was released mainly in digital format and only a few copies of the film were produced on traditional film. The movie showed up at the Ohio Theatre so long after the film came out because it took so long to obtain a film copy.

Most of the money raised has come from minor contributions from people in the community. There haven't been any substantial contributions made.

"Right now it's still trickling in. And we're not discouraged," Tony Ratcliff said.

There is no solid next step for the Ratcliffs other than to push to get to at least the goal of $25,000.

"We want to keep it here. And we hope everyone wants to keep it here," Laura Ratcliff said.