Going to the movies was more of a community experience in the decades before national corporations started building huge, multiplex movie theaters at shopping malls. If the weather was nice, you could pile your friends into a car and head off to a drive-in. But most of the time, you had to go downtown to the local theatre to see the latest releases from Hollywood.
Civic leaders in small towns across America are hoping to recapture some of that sense of community by restoring old theaters and reinventing them as community arts centers.
Such is the case at the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock, PA. The Dietrich Theater first opened in 1937 with just one screen. That was fine until the mid-1980s when the Dietrich Theater couldn’t compete with the new breed of corporate-run multiplex theaters at malls. After being closed for well over a decade, the Dietrich Theater reopened in 2001—this time with two screens to meet the changing expectations and diverse tastes of moviegoers. And earlier this summer, the Dietrich Theater opened a new addition to the theater that includes two additional screens as well as space for arts classes and community events.
One of the most eye-catching features of the addition to the theater is the series of larger-than life black-and-white photographs hanging above the new lobby. The photo posters were designed by Stephen Hendrickson, a NY-based production designer for television who helps design special events and displays for the Dietrich Theater. The posters were printed by Lizza Studios, a Tunkhannock-based business that provides large-format, fine-art reproduction services for artists.
The posters were printed on Photo Tex PSA fabric for solvent printers and an Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 solvent inkjet printer from LexJet. The posters were installed by Bob Lizza, Doug Wilson, and Betsy Green of Lizza Studios.
The seven posters in the series include three 80 x 82-in. posters on each side of the lobby and a 106 x 80 in. poster at the center. The posters feature some of iconic stars you would have seen in movies at the Dietrich Theater in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, such as Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, John Wayne, Cary Grant, and Katherine Hepburn.
According to studio manager Betsy Green, this was the first time Lizza Studios had ever attempted a project like this, but they were more than happy to help The Dietrich Theater succeed as an arts center. She said Lizza Studios typically uses the Epson Stylus Pro GS6000 for reproducing art that features bright, saturated colors. But she reports that everyone was extremely pleased by how well the printer reproduced the black-and-white movie stills.
Lizza chose to print on Photo Tex PSA because it is so easy to hang that it doesn’t require any specialized training in installation. Photo Tex is an inkjet-printable fabric, backed with a repositionable adhesive. The adhesive cures over time so that the mural will stay put, but if you make a mistake when you are installing the printed panels, it’s easy to fix. And, because the fabric “breathes,” you don’t have to spend a lot of time removing the trapped pockets of air. The adhesive removes cleanly from the walls when it’s time to take the mural down. Photo Tex PSA is available for both aqueous-ink and solvent-ink printers.
“If we hadn’t used the Photo Tex material, the job would have been nearly impossible for us.” Green admits. During installation, they had to work from a high lift and precisely align each panel in the recessed areas the architect had included in the lobby walls.
They had to take the posters on and off a few times to get each poster installed exactly right. But they succeeded, and Green now calls Photo Tex PSA a miracle material: “Whoever invented it is genius. It is user-friendly in every way.”
The addition the Dietrich Theater opened in June and everyone agrees that the black-and-white images look stunning. The prints provide a striking, historic contrast to the ultra-modern design of the lobby below. Hildy Morgan, of the Dietrich Theater, says “It’s the most beautiful visual tie-in that you can imagine.”
At LexJet, we love hearing how customers such as Lizza Studios are using their inkjet printers and alternative materials to contribute to community projects. We’ve published other stories about Photo Tex murals in our In Focus newsletter and we’ll be showing some other examples in upcoming posts on this blog.
For example, you can read about the photo mural Advanced Signs & Graphics installed in a health-care facility or the wrap-around photo murals Tom Grassi of Image-Tec installed as a scenic backdrop at a rehabilitation facility.
If you have any questions about the material or how to use it, please call one of the helpful account specialists at LexJet at 800-453-9538.