Prineville's Pine Theater forced to go digital

Fundraising campaign under way to make it happen

Prineville theater's choice: Upgrade or shutdown

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Oniko and Ali Mehrabi may soon screen their last picture show at the Pine Theater in Prineville. It's not because they don't want to pop the popcorn and load the film projector any more. It's because soon, there will be no film to load.

Hollywood studios are phasing out film prints and going fully digital because it's cheaper to make and ship.

A shift forcing theaters across the country -- including the Pine -- to purchase new, very expensive projection equipment.

"They told us it would cost about $95,000, because you have to upgrade all the audio sound and the new projector system," Oniko said.

To help reach their goal, the Mehrabis came up with a fundraising plan -- The Walk of Fame Horseshoe Campaign.

They're selling 240 personally engraved horseshoes for $400 each that will be placed in the cement entry to the theater.

"It's going to be historic for that person to be forever remembered, and it's proof that they were famous and they were a part of something," Oniko said.

The Mehrabis have sold 24 horseshoes so far and raised $10,000. But the July 4th deadline is quickly approaching.

"It is a matter of a rush to get this done. We don't want to be the last ones standing," Oniko added.

If they can't collect enough money, the 73-year-old theater will be forced to close.

Oniko says if the theater dies, a huge part of the town dies.

But the art of movie showing must go on.

"It's been such a positive input for this community, that's why we don't want it to close. We don't want any negative input on this community," Oniko said.

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 A similar fund-raising effort to save the Desert Historic Theater in Burns raised over $56,000, said KBNH radio News Director Linc Reed-Nickerson. The radio station kicked off the drive with a radio-thon that raised over $6,000, followed by other community events.

As it turned out, the projector was funded by a grant, he said, so the money will go toward installation and improvements to the sound system, heating and roof repairs, he said.

Much of the fund-raising was organized by Burns High student Seth Campbell as his senior project, Reed-Nickerson said.

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