The Varsity could have an alternate ending. The landmark Chapel Hill movie theater with the vintage vibe and glowing marquee is receiving pressure from technology to go digital or go dark. Over the past few years, motion picture studios have started distributing movies strictly as digital prints stored on hard drives, rather than film on reels. Economics has fueled the shift. The cost of releasing one film reel is equivalent to about 15 digital copies. While cost effective for studios, independent theaters are forced to shut down given the major hurdle to purchase a digital machine -- upwards of $100,000.
Built in 1927, the Franklin Street theater is one of the oldest in North Carolina. Though ownership and names have shifted -- starting with the original Carolina Theater, followed by the Village Theater before becoming the Varsity -- the Sorrell building has always housed a movie theater. In 2009, Paul and Susan Shareshian renovated the Varsity to offer affordable entertainment (movie tickets are $4) and a space for community events (local film premieres, fundraisers).
The duo is determined to raise enough money to convert one of the two screens to digital and stay alight. They have launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to raise $50,000. So far, they are half way there. The campaign ends in February 2015. To donate and sign up for updates: VarsityGoesDigital.com. To catch what's playing: VarsityonFranklin.com.
Keep the beacon aglow on Franklin Street.
(photographs taken on Franklin Street between Columbia & Henderson streets in Chapel Hill)