The Hollywood Theater in Dormont, if it wants to survive, has to go digital. That means converting from showing 35mm film to a digital cinema package, a new format that requires the Hollywood to spend $75,000 for a digital projector.
"We either have to do it or we won't be able to continue," said Chad Hunter, the theater's managing director.
Already, the Hollywood, located at 1449 Potomac Ave. in Dormont's business district, is one of the last remaining single-screen theaters in the Pittsburgh area.
So it is somewhat fitting that tonight, in a fundraising bid for the digital projector, the theater is showing "The Last Unicorn," a fantasy film about a unicorn who learns that she is the last of her sort.
The 1982 animated film, which features the voices of Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges and Mia Farrow, is based on the 1968 book of the same name by Peter S. Beagle.
It is considered a "fantasy classic," said Chris Rickert, the volunteer marketer for the theater, who also works as Mr. Beagle's sales director. She asked if she could show the film at the Hollywood because the theater's patrons had been requesting "The Last Unicorn," which celebrated the 30th anniversary of its theatrical release this year.
Mr. Beagle will be at the theater tonight at 7 -- and at screenings at 2 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday -- to answer questions, sign autographs and sell copies of his book.
The 73-year-old New York native and current Oakland, Calif., resident is a member of the Hollywood Theater's honorary advisory board and a University of Pittsburgh graduate. In emailed responses to questions sent through his business manager, he said he couldn't pass up a chance to return to the city where he was a student.
"I'll take any excuse to visit Pittsburgh again," he said. "I was 16 and 17 and 18 . . . away from home for the first time because of school -- in those days 400 miles was a lot further than it is now -- and Pittsburgh shaped me and my work in more ways than I'll ever be able to explain, but which I know are there."
His novel has sold 6 million copies worldwide, in 25 languages, with the movie also enjoying robust sales, said his business manager, Connor Cochran, in a phone interview. A live action version of the movie and a Broadway musical version of "The Last Unicorn" could also come out in the next few years, he said.
Mr. Beagle, who called the book "the hardest thing I've ever done," responded to a question in an email about why the story has remained so popular in the fantasy genre.
"The unicorn's quest for the truth and her own people is somehow both universal and deeply personal, so that many different kinds of people respond to what she goes through, and to the price she pays, and they tend to respond deeply because even though the story is relatively direct it isn't sugarcoated or simplistic," he said. "Most fantasies, and certainly most animated films, have obviously Good or Evil characters, and classic happy endings where everything always comes out neat and perfect in the end. The Last Unicorn is messier and more ambiguous than that, which makes it realer and more involving."
Tickets for all showings are $7 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under and seniors 65 and over. Tickets are available at http://www.showclix.com/event/TheLastUnicornWithPeterBeagle and at the door. All ticket sales and 10 percent of merchandise and book sales will be donated to the Hollywood Theater.
The screenings will be the first of several events the Hollywood will hold in the coming year as the theater fights to maintain a presence and show films in Dormont, said the theater's Mr. Hunter. Movie studios are planning to end distribution of film prints and provide only digital copies to theaters.
So far, they've raised about $7,500 toward the $75,000 goal.
Their aim is to be fully digital by spring, but certainly by the end of 2013.
"There's no way around it," Mr. Hunter said. "We have to raise the $75,000 this year."