Since it’s opening in January of 1941, the Campus Theatre has screened thousands of movies on 35mm film stock. Originally, the theatre booth was equipped with two 35mm projectors serving in a dual changeover system in which the film was typically divided into five to eight reels. Approximately every eighteen minutes, as one reel neared its end (or foot), the second reel engaged and rolled from its start (or head) and the projectionist closes and opens the dousers sequentially to create the illusion of seamless continuity.
Throughout the early 80s, the film industry shifted towards the use of the xenon bulb for the projection light source. As a result, projection booths were able to downsize to one film projector and a platter system containing the entire film on a single flat platter allowing short term financial benefits to the theatre due to lesser technical work and needs.
In the 2000s, the rising costs of film stocks and the momentum of digital technology ultimately led to fewer films being printed or reprinted for 35mm distribution. Because of this, 35mm prints already in distribution entered into a new state of scarcity and demanded more specialized care for their longevity and survival. Films have always been preserved in an archival fashion but today every 35mm film is considered archival film due to the lack of stock and cost effectiveness to replace a damaged reel or entire film.
In August of 2014, The Campus Theatre, through the efforts of Bucknell University, returned to a two-projector 35mm reel-to-reel system ensuring the most protective pathway for these loaned archival prints. The majority of these screenings are produced by the Film and Media Department of Bucknell University on Mondays, Tuesdays, and some Wednesdays.
By good fortune, the Campus Theatre was able to find a copy of The Blob (1988) from the estate of a theatre owner in our area. This print was last screened at a Drive-In now gone in October of 1988. Drive-In projectors are known to run very hot and their booths are typically prone to high amounts of dust, oil, pollen, etc. The condition in which we received The Blob required some first-level restoration work in our booth. Depending on the context in which they are used, the terms Film Restoration and Film Preservation can take on varying definitions and processes. Here at the Campus Theatre, we define our Level One Film Restoration of The Blob 1988 as a rigorous film inspection and cleaning as well as the proper repair of all splices and perforations to insure the safest transport through the 35mm projectors. Other Level One Restorations could include incorporating additional prints to create the clearest and most complete print. Following our special screening, the film will remain in the theatre as a preserved print. To conclude the topic of Film Restoration, film preservationists may seek higher levels of restoration which can include access to the original negatives for a digital or 35mm analog reprint.