The Ambler Theater Brings the Magic of 35MM Film Back to the Screen

Ambler Theater will be hosting their first annual 35MM Film Festival starting tomorrow Friday, April 13th. The two-day Fest will celebrate the return of watching films on film, and will feature celluloid classics ranging from B-movie sci-fi to Hollywood staples. Ambler Theaters’ journey back to 35MM film has been a labor of love.

35MM celluloid film is the medium that most movies have been shot, edited and distributed to theaters for the past 100 years or so. Watching analogue 35MM film is magical, and because of the richness and resolution, emotes an undeniable romantic feeling.  But, 35MM film degrades each time it is put through a projector. It will scratch and tear and edges will get worn, which eventually effects the viewing quality… it is fragile.  It is this fragility that film purists would argue, makes shooting and viewing 35MM so magical.

Many movies, especially silent movies made before 1950, have been lost to deterioration, but digital films can be played over and over and the quality is not diminished.  Shooting, editing and distributing digital is a cheaper and faster medium and because of an easy distribution process, allows the print to launch simultaneously on screens across the world. It also costs more to produce and ship 35MM film to theaters and digital can do same job for about 90% less.

Because of these reasons and more, the film industry at large changed to digital. Ambler Theater was forced to make the switch to digital projectors about 6 years ago and, as Co-Director of Ambler Theater Christopher Collier put it, “effectively divorced themselves from the history of theater”. They launched a huge community outreach in order to fund and install digital projectors, and successfully made the transition.

Despite the changing industry, Ambler Theater always knew the value in 35MM film and that they would always have an audience for it, but there were challenges in getting it back. One of these challenges included updating their old 35MM projection system. With the help of Vesta Fund, the old projectors were re-purposed by Cardinal Sound and installed in Ambler Theater’s projection booth.

When they ran 35MM in the past, they were a platter house, meaning the individual reels were spliced together to create a single reel. Then the single reel containing the entire feature was wound onto a round, rotating table called a platter, which was located next to the projector.  Ambler Theater’s new system now projects the films reel-to-reel which is seamless and an ultimately better process of film projection.  Because they took such extreme care in the process of repurposing their projectors, Ambler Theater will now have access to rare copies of films.


Jesse Crooks, the highly trained projectionist and Director of Operations at Ambler Theater, spearheaded the testing and building of this Film Fest. Jesse will be projecting an amazing line-up starting Friday with the apropos, Cinema Paradiso about a boy who returns home to his native Sicilian Village as a famous director, and through a series of flashbacks, reminisces about his childhood and specifically his relationship with Alfredo, a projectionist at Cinema Paradiso. Under the fatherly influence of Alfredo,  Salvatore learned the skills that led him to fall in love with filmmaking.  The film highlights the changes that were happening in cinema and the dying trade of traditional film making, editing and screening.

Cinema Paradiso will be shown on Friday at 7:30pm.  The line-up continues with Animation Mania on Saturday April 14th at 10am, Dying of the Light (2015) – Saturday April 14th at 1pm, Roman Holiday (1953)- Saturday April 14th at 6pm, Plan 9 from Outerspace (1959) – Saturday April 14th at 9:30pm.  To see the entire line up, times and ticket information, click here.

All presentations throughout the weekend will include special pre-shows, cartoons, trailers and ads which are timed to the era and genre of the film being shown.


Booth tours will be offered so you can check out the projection booth, and antique projectors and 35MM equipment will be on display throughout the event.

Ambler Theater is excited for the first year of the 35mm Film Fest and in turn, to gaining access to more 35mm prints in the future.

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