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Article updated: 12/3/2012 11:31 AM

Barrington's Catlow theater about to go digital

By Eric Peterson

Nearly 1,400 supporters this summer helped give Barrington's 85-year-old Catlow theater the chance for many more birthdays, and its owners are expecting to give the community a big Christmas present in return.

Exactly one week before Christmas, the Catlow's expensive -- and lifesaving -- digital projector is expected to be delivered.

Installation is scheduled for Dec. 19 but may carry over into the next day and co-owner Tim O'Connor isn't yet sure whether a screening on the 19th will be possible. Nor is he sure what movie the Catlow will be regularly screening that week, but he does have some hopes.

"We want to get 'Skyfall,'" O'Connor said, referring to the newest James Bond film. "That would be a great way to test out the system."

Before that, the premiere screening for the new digital equipment will be the seasonally appropriate "The Polar Express" from 2004. There's also a midday screening of "It's a Wonderful Life" scheduled for Christmas Eve, though the black and white 1946 classic won't show off the new technology quite as well.

Meanwhile, the theater has already been prepared in other ways for the arrival of digital projection.

"We got all-new sound equipment," O'Connor said. "It's going to be really nice."

All the upgrades are courtesy of the 1,394 backers who donated $175,395 to the Catlow through an online fundraiser over the summer.

It took only seven days to raise the $100,000 needed for the digital projector. But supporters continued to give throughout the rest of the 60-day donation period after learning that other improvements like the new sound system were possible.

Without the funds for the digital projector, it seemed likely the Catlow would have had to shut down at some point next year. That's when the movie industry says it will stop distributing new titles on film.

While most major theater chains already have made the conversion to digital projectors, smaller independent cinemas have had difficulty raising the additional funds for such a major capital improvement.

The expense was cited as a major reason for the closure of Arlington Theaters in downtown Arlington Heights last summer.

Village officials are still hoping an investor to come forward and make the building useful again.

The Buffalo Grove Theater in Buffalo Grove's Town Center shopping mall began a fundraiser in October in hopes of buying digital projectors for its five screens.

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