A Spot of Wonder


The Chautauqua Cinema, currently owned by Bill Schmidt, is hidden at the corner of Hurst and Wythe in Chautauqua, NY. Built of pressed brick with terra cotta trimmings, the pitch-roofed theater seats about 350. Through the installation of Dolby Digital six-channel sound in 2003, HD digital projection in 2007, and conversion to DCI digital distribution in 2014, Schmidt is determined to provide the best viewing experience for fellow moviegoers.

The cinema’s main projector runs with Dolby’s cinema server, Doremi, with three hard drives that run simultaneously during each movie. They can collectively hold six terabytes of film — equivalent to about 15 movies.

“Programming is the hardest, most interesting part,” Schmidt said. “I have a spreadsheet of movies that might interest me, and might interest Chautauqua. We’re stretching that boundary; we’ve gone all the way to horror. I showed ‘Get Out,’ a brilliantly made debut from a great mind. Did everyone who came to see it love it? No. It may have been pushing people too far, but it’s a horror film, and a funny one. People come with their expectations — I’m trying to give people what they want.

Roger Ebert said that “cinema is a machine that generates empathy.” “It’s a way to explore humanity and culture with three points,” Schmidt said, “music, visuals and a great story.”

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