The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

May 6, 2013

PICTURE PERFECT

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@journal-register.com
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — MIDDLEPORT — For many, a drive-in movie theater hearkens back to a simpler, more innocent time.

Now, at the Sunset Drive-In in Middleport, the retro-feel and old time vibe still exist, but the picture on the screen is much more modern looking.

Indeed, it is a new era at the Sunset Drive-In, and one that ironically started with Oblivion and Identity Thief. Two weeks ago week, when the theatre opened for the summer, a new digital projector was used for the first time. This past weekend with Iron Man 3 ushering in the unofficial start of the summer blockbuster season, the local hot spot featured digital picture on all three screens.

Denise Stornelli, who co-owns the establishment with her husband Mario, said she has heard some positive feedback regarding the difference in picture quality. And, even though she does not normally watch the movies the drive-in shows, she said she has seen a difference, too.

“Last week when I was leaving at one point I looked over and saw The Croods and immediately noticed the picture was better,” she said.

The change from projectors with 35 mm film to a digital medium, according to Stornelli, will be made by the end of the year for all movies. It is not a cheap proposition, but it is one that is both necessary and an improvement.

Stornelli said she saw one place where two projectors were on simultaneously and only one had been upgraded. The difference was quite stark, she said.

Improving the equipment at Sunset was something that was going to happen, but Stornelli said she was hopeful it could be done in stages. Still, she said the end of film by the conclusion of the year forced the changeover. In the long run she said the drive-in will wind up saving money on shipping costs, and the price to ship film was a bit high she said. She also noted with a tinge of sadness that the switch to digital cost the business a projectionist, proving that with the good, there is also bad.

Stornelli’s son and grandson are helping her and her husband get acclimated to the new computer system that handles the movies. She said it has been quite the adjustment since she has always viewed computers as more of a luxury than necessity.

“For them, the old system was a bit primitive, but for me this is a little overwhelming,” she said, adding how she and Mario normally keep their focus more on the business end of things. However, since the next two generations seem to have a handle on things, Stornelli still sounded encouraged.

“This theater was built by (Mario’s) parents and opened in 1950. That’s 63 years,” she said. “That, to me, is an awesome amount of time for an independent business to be in existence.”

The age and success of the drive-in, Stornelli said, come from the change-of-pace venue.

“Getting to sit outside and watch a movie is a pleasure to experience,” she said. Movies in the outdoors can bring a sense of nostalgia. The move to digital, while essential, led to Stornelli wondering whether it was possible to become too advanced as a society that it takes away from the simpleness of years gone by.

However, she said the move appears to be a good one so far, and she said she was looking forward to hearing what patrons had to say about such upcoming blockbusters as Star Trek: Into Darkness and the Superman reboot Man of Steel.

“We’re hoping for good weather, and good movies,” she said.