CANTON — Philip DeLong thought he was done with the movie theater business.
And then he got a request – and soon he found himself right back in that familiar box office milieu, at least for a little while.
The 28-year-old New Albany resident has experience working at the Keystone Theatre in Towanda, where he started in concessions when he was 16 years old. In addition, he was a facility manager for the 17-screen Stony Brook AMC Theaters on Long Island, N.Y.
Currently, he has his own computer repair business in New Albany.
But the Rialto Theatre in Canton needed help with some repairs, and the Bradford County Regional Arts Council sought DeLong’s assistance.
Elaine Poost, executive director of BCRAC and DeLong’s mother, asked him in April if he would be interested in lending a helping hand at the theatre. This was following the resignation of the previous theatre manager.
“I hadn’t thought about coming back,” DeLong said. “It’s been a lot of work. It’s been super-busy, but I’ve been having a blast.”
Although the work at the Rialto has been a challenge, DeLong confesses that “it’s something I love to do.”
This spring, DeLong has served as interim manager at the theater, and has overseen several projects: power washing the theater; ripping up old seats and re-attaching them with reinforcements; repainting the lobby and the stairwell; putting in an IT network infrastructure; installing a new point of sale system in conjunction with the incorporation of digital technology; removing the old 35 mm projector and prepping the projection room for the new digital projector; getting the seats new cup holders; rewiring; fixing roof drainage; and putting new masking around the new screen.
If it sounds like something big is in the works for the Rialto, it’s no coincidence. Some exciting times are ahead.
As part of its 100th anniversary year, the Rialto has been converting from 35mm film to digital projection and RealD 3D.  “Star Trek Into Darkness” will be presented in 3D beginning Friday, May 31, at the Rialto.
DeLong is a fan of Star Trek and of the new movie.
“I liked it. It’s different than Star Trek in the past, but I still think it’s a blast.”
DeLong said he has been doing the work at the Rialto as a favor to the arts council, and is waiting to turn the reins over to whoever is hired to replace him as permanent manager.
He said his work at the multiplex on Long Island prepared him for the job at the Rialto.
In that previous job, which he held from 2008 to 2011, he oversaw maintenance, worked with outside contractors, and acted as a resource for other theaters on Long Island.
According to the BCRAC, DeLong oversaw many theater improvement projects while at AMC, including digital IMAX conversions and film to digital conversions, and also worked on theater safety projects and cost reduction projects throughout Long Island and New York City.
DeLong has enjoyed the history of the Rialto.
He noted that the Rialto’s old projector, which dates back to 1937, will be put in the Lou Smithgall Museum at the Rialto and will serve as the centerpiece there. It’s the twin to the old projector that was used at the Keystone, and people will be able to try out rethreading the film on the projector in the museum.
DeLong has had an interesting experience in the movie theater business. He even was able to see a few celebrities in New York. During his time at the multiplex on Long Island, DeLong spotted Dee Snider from “Twisted Sister” and professional wrestler Mick Foley. He said they were just there seeing movies.
He enjoyed living on Long Island, which he said had a lot of convenience. He made a lot of friends there that he still keeps in touch with.
He is married to his wife, Sarah, who lives with him in New Albany and resided with him on Long Island.
They have adjusted back to small town life, and though they miss the convenience of Long Island, their families are in Bradford County, and he says “this is a big plus for us.”
And DeLong appreciates the Rialto.
“It’s an old building that has a lot of history to it. It really is a beautiful building.”
The last 35 mm film to be shown at the Rialto and in Bradford County will be the film “42,” which will be shown today at the Rialto. DeLong finds this bittersweet. Though he is looking forward to the digital conversion, he feels 35 mm has been a great medium over the years, and a high-quality one.
As for the movie business, he likes creating a movie experience for the customers. Providing a world-class and casual, fun-loving environment is important, he said, and it allows audiences to have the shared, communal experience of watching a movie.
He said his favorite movie theater is the Keystone Theatre in Towanda.
“I love the historic side of the Keystone.”
Also, he is amazed by how the community works together to keep the Rialto going.
“That’s its biggest asset, the community out there,” he said. He said a lot of volunteers from the community, including businesses, have been involved in keeping the Rialto in shape.
Linda Nickerson, vice president of BCRAC and a member of the Rialto Theatre Advisory Committee, said DeLong “comes with a lot of experience, and has really gotten everybody involved in getting this done.”
“He has done a phenomenal job,” she commented.
Poost recalled how her son was always interested in movies.
“He can tell you everything about ‘Star Trek,’ sci-fi – those are his things.”
Eric Hrin can be reached at 297-5251; reviewtroy@thedailyreview.com