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The big screen comes to a small town

By Colby Dunn • Correspondent

For residents of Highlands, the list of things to do in town, depending on the season, can be pretty short and “go to the movies” has never been on it. But the town is filmless no more, thanks to a new program at the Highlands Playhouse that’s bringing in the blockbusters four nights a week. 

 

After a four-and-a-half-month winterization process, the historic theater that’s long catered to summer residents is now opening its doors in the winter for the first time. The auditorium is hosting the movies Thursday through Saturday, two shows per day, in the off season – they’ll cut back to two nights a week when plays ramp back up in the summer – and though there’s only the one screen, they’ve gone whole hog to make it a state-of-the-art experience. For $8 a person, a 35-foot separated screen, 7.1 Dolby digital surround sound and a fully digital projector will transport theatergoers into the world of a new star-studded production every week. 

Instead of adopting the lower cost method of many community and dollar theaters and screening older releases, the theater went for the big fish, showing new and recent releases from a variety of studios. They drew crowds for the Tom Hanks blockbuster “Captain Phillips.” The theater also opened “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” simultaneously with thousands of theaters across the country. “Last Vegas” premiered in Highlands just two and a half weeks after it was released. 

The process of picking their films is a little arduous; each film has to be voted on by the Playhouse’s board, and then negotiations must be undertaken for film rights with each studio individually. But Tammy Hernandez, the theater’s managing director, says they’re trying to maintain a good mix of films, from the big names to the lesser known but still interesting movies. 

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“We’re going to try and mix it up a little bit. We want to appeal to everyone, but especially the people who are here year-round and don’t have anything to do,” says Hernandez. “We don’t want them to come here and say there isn’t anything to do except shop.”

They’ve hired a few new folks to help with the increased workload, and though the winterization was expensive, the endeavor is so popular it’s already starting to pay for itself. 

“We’re actually sustaining right now with the money that we’re making,” says Hernandez. “In previous years, we’ve struggled to make ends meet for the actual program in the summer, but this is giving us some money, some income during the slow time to help us possibly bring on even a better season.”

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