The Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University.

The Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University is getting a new digital film projector and cinema screen.

The new additions to the over a century-old theater are the result of a fundraising effort that began in 2017. According to a press release, more than $350,000 was needed for the upgrades. 

The new projection and screen equipment includes a Cinionic Barco 4K-resolution, 25,000-lumen laser projector. According to the release, the upgrade will deliver laser-sharp images, deeper contrast, better brightness, and more vivid colors. The new motorized screen provides multiple aspect-ratio options and manually-adjustable side masking. Side masking systems are used to cover either or both sides of the cinema screen.

“This newly installed digital projector and screen marks the culmination of a six-year fundraising effort nearing its end,” said Lee Foster, Rialto Center for the Arts executive director, in a statement. “This technology enables our team to provide audiences with the very latest in cinematic display and audio options, while also enabling our events team to engage with the state’s thriving film and television industry to create elevated film premiere experiences.”

Rialto Production Manager Michael Williams and Advisory Board Vice Chair Christopher Escobar – who owns The Plaza Theatre and recently announced plans to reopen The Tara Theatre – helped champion the purchase of the new projection and screen equipment. 

Christopher Escobar is executive director of the Atlanta Film Festival and owner of the Plaza Theatre. (Atlanta Film Society)

“This installation creates a world-class movie premiere destination in the heart of the South’s thriving film community,” Escobar said in a statement. “Along with Lee Foster and the entire Rialto team, I personally can’t wait to welcome Atlanta Film Festival and other film organizations—and their movie-loving audiences—back to downtown to experience this new technology with all the comforts of the Rialto experience, which is something special about which Atlantans should be proud.”

Williams originally joined the Rialto team as a projectionist in 2003.

“Installing the new projector and screen is both professionally and personally fulfilling,” Williams said in a statement. “My grandfather attended silent films at the original Rialto, and now future generations of our family, and countless GSU students and Atlantans will be able to enjoy films here with the very latest technology.”

Escobar and other members of the Rialto’s team hope the new installations will give the Rialto a larger foothold in Atlanta’s cinema world. Before the installation, the Rialto team viewed the cost of renting industry-grade equipment as a deterrent for studio premiere planners and other cinema events.

“Previously it was expensive and complicated to host cinema events at Rialto, and now it will be so easy, affordable and convenient for both planners and audiences,” Escobar said. “Nearby parking, MARTA access, the venue’s massive lobby, Presidential Suite, backstage green room options all combine to place Rialto among the top contenders for film events.”

Originally opened as the Piedmont Theatre in 1916, the Rialto has served as a vaudeville and movie destination in Atlanta for decades. The original building was demolished in 1962 and rebuilt in 1963, before eventually closing in 1989. Georgia State purchased the theater in the early 1990s and reopened it as the Rialto Center for the Arts in 1996. Since then, the Rialto has hosted a plethora of special screenings and premieres, including two “Game of Thrones” season premieres in 2012 and 2013, and multiple screenings for the Atlanta Film Festival. 

The equipment news comes alongside announcements of two film events at the Rialto in the spring. On April 3, the Rialto will host a private film premiere event, and in late April the Atlanta Film Festival will hold a special screening. The Atlanta Film Festival is expected to announce details about that screening, which will be the public’s first opportunity to experience the new equipment, later in March. 

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.