New projector! Spruced up lobby! More beer! Studio 35 screens its own happy ending
For two months this spring, Studio 35 Cinema & Drafthouse left its customers with a cliffhanger worthy of classic movie serials.
After nearly 75 years of operation, the Clintonville institution closed from March to early May for major renovations. Photos posted on Facebook dropped enticing clues of what to expect, but questions hung in the air: Would the popular neighborhood cinema retain its vintage charm? Would it keep unique amenities like table seating? Perhaps most important, how would all this affect the theater’s beer selection?
According to Eric Brembeck, who owns the theater with his wife Rita Volpi, the substantial undertaking grew out of a hard reality in modern film exhibition. Soon, traditional 35mm prints will be a thing of the past, and theaters that don’t make the costly conversion to digital projection will be left behind.
“This is something we had to do if we want to stay in business,” he said. “But just converting was going to get me nothing.”
So the owners went for an overhaul that extends from the restrooms to the screen.
The lobby area has been completely transformed, with polished walnut surfaces, more seating and more beer taps—a total of 40, in addition to a full bar. Auditorium seating has been reconfigured and more tables have been installed. The screen is now attached to an apparatus that allows it to flip up, garage door-style, creating more room for live entertainment on the theater’s stage.
Beyond the expanded draft offerings, the key difference for filmgoers is a marked improvement in sound quality, thanks to some new equipment, walls covered with acoustically optimal materials, and the installation of a double wall to separate the auditorium from the lobby.
As Brembeck noted, “The biggest challenge in doing this was, How do we make it new and not feel new? I think we’ve accomplished that.”