Digital projector for a small theater
March 9, 2005 7:59 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I are opening a small, single-screen independent movie theater in April, and we need to buy a good digital projector... pronto. What should we be looking for as far as specs (Lumens, throw, inputs, etc.)?

First, let me tell you about the theater. We have a 40 foot throw from projection booth to screen, but the digital projector doesn't have to be in the booth... we could easily mount it on the ceiling. Our screen is 14' x 7 3/4'.

The projector will need to be multi-purpose. It will show pre-show ads / animations before each movies (requiring more brightness as people are seating), as well as play any film that comes in digital format (i.e. student films, films without distributors, Crispin Glover films, etc.).

If possible, I'd like to keep our budget between $3K and $5K... maybe $6K, but that's pushing it. So what should we be looking for? Where can we find a good projector at a low price? Any recommendations or suggestions are appreciated. Thanks!
posted by bjork24 to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would keep an eye on Boston Light and Sound's "Surplus and Specials section. The folks there are wonderful to deal with and they have a great reputation.
posted by anathema at 8:04 AM on March 9, 2005

Best answer: That's going to be a problem - that's a large screen to fill with an inexpensive projector.

I'd recommend posting this question at the That's where all the home theater geeks hang out, myself included, and there's LOTS of intelligence there.
posted by cptnrandy at 8:06 AM on March 9, 2005

That is a huge screen. My 1100 lumen home projector is adequate for my screen, and yours is six times the area (or effectively 8 times if you get a 4:3 projector). So you'll need several thousand lumens.

In terms of format, any modern projector can handle HDTV and standard video formats, and I can't imagine you coming into contact with much us all unless you're using very esoteric playback equipment.

There's a handy calculator at for throw distance/brightness/image size etc. They also have a searchable projector database. Here are some suggestions for you.

That should give you some pointers. Talk to some professionals before you buy anything.
posted by cillit bang at 9:26 AM on March 9, 2005

this sounds like an awesome project! good luck!
posted by fishfucker at 10:54 AM on March 9, 2005

You also will need to set aside a substantial amount of money for bulb replacement-- don't neglect to do that, or else you'll lose revenue through down-time while you're waiting. You can get some great deals on projector bulbs on eBay, but shop around and see if you can get someone to sponsor you.

In fact, I'd investigate projector manufacturer sponsorship as well. You could contract to display information on the equipment you use both on your website and in the cinema itself. You may also be able to win them over by allowing them to set up a display of their consumer electronics in your cinema, as well.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:18 PM on March 9, 2005

I know someone who spent $25,000.00 on their projector. From looking at the specs alone I could not figure out why it was better than other projectors.

Something you may want to think about seperately is the sound. You want the talking to come from the screen and ambient sounds from the walls if possible. This will make your theatre feel a lot more theatry.
posted by xammerboy at 1:53 PM on March 9, 2005

I'm not sure how much this will help you, but last Friday I saw a screening of "Plan 9 from Outer Space" at a tiny Independant theater in Buffalo, NY.

When I visited the website of this company later last weekend, I was reading about how they are selling digital projectors, and do some consulting too. Their website is at:

As I said, I'm not sure how much of a help they will be, but it's worth a shot I guess.

I would love to hear how your Theater turns out.
posted by punkrockrat at 5:12 PM on March 9, 2005

Response by poster: Not to be too self-promotional, but for those of you who have shown interest in our little project... here's the blog where I post all the updates ( Thanks!

I'm still looking for a good projector.
posted by bjork24 at 6:43 PM on March 9, 2005

Hey! I live just a few blocks from your theater! I can't wait for you to open!
posted by sourwookie at 4:50 PM on March 13, 2005

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