The Bradford County Regional Arts Council (BCRAC) recently announced a $15,000 grant award from the Allen F. Pierce Foundation in support of digital film conversion at BCRAC's theatres.

Cinemas and theaters across the country are struggling to keep up with movie companies and 21st century technologies by converting soon-to-be-outdated film projectors. For the Bradford County Regional Arts Council, that means converting 6 screens at its three historic theatres - the Keystone, Rialto and Sayre. In early 2012, BCRAC began the planning and fundraising process to move the three theatres to the newer digital projection. With an estimated cost of $60,000 per screen, the Arts Council faces a total cost of close to $360,000 to convert all three theatres.

Even as fundraising efforts continue, time constraints dictated that the BCRAC move forward with the conversions and in September 2012, the Sayre Theatre was the first of the theatres to go to the new digital projection. The new digital technology allows for the movies to arrive by satellite or as a paperback book-sized hard drive that's downloaded and programmed to show in the appropriate theatre - taking minutes versus hours. Moviegoers will notice brighter, clearer images that won't deteriorate over time. In addition, the new technology allows for on-demand alternative programming at the theatres such as live, high-definition performances of national and international productions (such as the Metropolitan Opera or London Symphony) as well as sporting, music and other entertainment events.

The Keystone Theatre underwent the conversion to digital projection in October 2012 and now the focus turns to the conversion for the Rialto Theatre. Projector costs are projected to decrease in 2013, and the BCRAC hopes to take advantage of those decreased costs for the Rialto Theatre. The award from the Pierce Foundation adds a large chunk needed for the new equipment.

"The BCRAC has been fortunate to receive many years of support from the Allen F. Pierce Foundation - with much of those funds benefitting the Rialto Theatre," said Elaine Poost, BCRAC Executive Director. "With the passing of Mrs. [Pierce] Elfvin and the termination of the Foundation, it seems befitting that this final award to BCRAC will help ensure that the Rialto Theatre will continue to be a part of the Canton community in the new century."

As with the Keystone Theatre, the Rialto Theatre will make the switch during a significant anniversary year. The Rialto Theatre was built in late 1912/early 1913, opening its doors for movies for the very first time on Jan. 16, 1913, as the Crawford Theatre. On Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, a year of 100th Anniversary specials and events kicked off with a celebration at the theatre.

The Rialto Theatre is one of three historic theatres owned and operated by the BCRAC. The BCRAC, established in 1976, is a regional non-profit organization committed to the promotion and support of the arts and culture. For more information, visit BCRAC online at www.bcrac.org or www.facebook.com/BCRAC.