The title screen for Mel Brook’s “Blazing Saddles” glimmered on the Gryphon Theater backdrop.
Bold orange letters stood taller than a man, crisp and vivid despite the sunlight filtering through the theater’s closed curtains.
“We didn’t used to be able to show movies during the day,” Gryphon Theater Manager Adam Bender said. “Our old projector couldn’t handle it, because of the washout. But, now we’re showing movies and film festivals at noon with no problems.”
In September, the theater purchased a new projector using its operating budget and donations from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, Union Pacific, Rocky Mountain Power and private donors.
“I just realized it had to happen if we were going to continue to have film festivals come through,” Bender explained.
Frequent Gryphon patrons likely noticed the movies projected in the past were dull in color and fuzzy at times, and while the theater’s antique charm and uncommon venue still attracted visitors, Bender said the projections grated against his perception of what the Gryphon could offer.
“The old projector was nice — in 1992,” he said. “But it was designed for a much smaller room.”
Projecting movies across a wider space on bigger screen meant movies never truly looked as the cinematographers intended, Bender explained. Additionally, the old projector broadcast images in 460 pixels, an outdated resolution long since abandonned by the film industry.
Nowadays, most films are displayed in 1,080 pixels, allowing for a much clearer image, he said. But a 1,080 pixel projector is no small purchase for a theater.
“The quality projectors start at $10,000,” said Bender, who’s worked at the theater for about a year and a half. “Our new projector cost approximately $22,000.”
While the new projector does display 1,080 pixels, it is but one part of the renovations the theater is undertaking.
“The entire project cost about $48,000,” Laramie Plains Civic Center Executive Director Melissa Daniele said. “The rest of the cost is going toward updating the lighting system. A big part of our mission at the LPCC is entertainment, and the theater is a major player in that.”
Bender said the downstage truss currently installed in the theater is not outdated and prohibitive to modern lighting schemes, but it is a safety concern.
“It’s basically just a single bar that everything hangs on,” he explained. “So we have to be very careful with how we use it. There’s some shows, like certain ballets, we can’t even book, because they have specific lighting requirements.”
Nearly $50,000 is a tall order for the Gryphon, but Daniele said the theater received a considerable amount of help from outside donors. The Wyoming Cultural Trust provided the Gryphon with a $22,400 grant under the condition the remaining costs were matched through other sources of funding, she said.
To date, the theater has raised just under half their goal with a $1,000 donation from Union Pacific, a $3,000 donation from Rocky Mountain Power and approximately $2,000 in donations from private donors.
“If we can’t make up the rest through donations, we’ll dip into our operating budget,” Bender said.
Using ticket revenue to pay for the updates is less than ideal, Daniele said, but the added ability to host more film festivals and various stage acts could make up for the cost in the future.
“Film festivals are very popular in Laramie,” she said. “This should help us book more of them.”
To view the new projector in action, visitors can drop in at 6:30 p.m., Jan. 18, and watch a free viewing of “Blazing Saddles.” Donations to the theater can be submitted at www.lpccwy.org