The cameras are rolling at Carlisle Theatre this week.
Rolando Vega, 21, a senior film major at Messiah College, and a crew comprised of his classmates are putting in 12-plus-hour days to bring to life his original story centered on a love for film and the movies.
“Palace” tells the story of Leo, a projectionist in a 1940s movie theater who becomes a manager and eventual owner of the theater while raising his granddaughter, Melanie. She, too, becomes a projectionist, having grown up alongside all the classic movies shown by her grandfather.
As the decades pass, the theater becomes less and less a focal point of the community. Enter Derek, an executive from a corporation that wants to buy the theater and demolish it in order to build a better facility.
“’Palace’ is a film about the human connection to art, specifically cinematic art, and how it can change us, especially at a younger age,” Vega said. “It outlines the beauty of how a movie palace can be a magical place that interconnects multiple generations through their mutual passion for films. It is a constant reminder that even though we are all different, movies can bring people together.”
The film began as an academic project with a single scene in mind, Vega said. It was the image of a tired, old projectionist splicing 35 mm film at an editing table near the end of his career. The movie was originally a monologue showcasing film and the media itself.
“Then, I realized I should probably tell the story of this guy,” Vega said.
Last fall, someone suggested using the Carlisle Theatre as the setting. Vega met with theater manager Leslie Sterner and knew he had found the right location.
“I immediately fell in love with it,” he said. “It’s beautiful and adds so much production value to our film.”
A short video for the crowdfunding website, Indiegogo, was filmed on location at Carlisle Theatre last October. The fundraising campaign kicked off on Nov. 2 and reached its $7,000 goal by Dec. 12.
Those donations will pay for lighting, actor salaries, set and location fees, wardrobe, make-up, travel, food, on-set essentials and a professional RED digital camera system and accessories. Vega anticipates that the location will provide an invaluable contribution to the overall quality of the film.
“We’re making a film that looks like a $20,000 film because of the location we got,” Vega said.
The production team also chose to retain the name “Carlisle Theatre” for the name of the theater in ‘Palace.’
“We were inspired by the actual history of the theater,” Vega said.
According to its website, the Carlisle Theatre opened its doors in May 1939 as The Comerford. At the time, it was one of three movie palaces within a block of one another in downtown Carlisle. During the early years, it offered shows continuously from 2:30 to 11:30 p.m.
The theatre flourished through the 1960s before beginning to decline during the 1970s, eventually closing in 1986. In 1990, a group formed, under the name Carlisle Regional Performing Arts Center, to reopen the theatre.
After thousands of hours of volunteer work, the theatre reopened in 1993 and now hosts films, performing arts, concerts and community events.
Many people have suggested that Vega hold a premier for ‘Palace’ at the Carlisle Theatre itself — an idea oozing with irony. In order for the film to be shown at Carlisle with its current projection system, Vega would have to have the digital product printed to film.
Though Vega found someone willing to give him a discount, the process would still cost thousands of dollars.
“My dream would be to get it printed on film and have it shown on Carlisle’s 35 mm projector before they transition to digital,” Vega said.
Carlisle Theatre recently embarked on a capital campaign to fund both its transition to digital and repairs to its building. The transition comes as directors and movie studios have continued to opt for digital over the 35 mm print. By the end of the year, all studios will have transitioned from celluloid.
“I found a lot of theaters in the same situation,” Vega said. “Hopefully, this film kind of inspires people and revitalizes the spirit of having a theater in the community.”
Vega expects to wrap up shooting this weekend with two opportunities for the community to be involved as extras. On Saturday, a scene will be filmed following the 7:30 p.m. showing of “The Sessions” on Saturday and the 2 p.m. showing on Sunday.
On both days, the film production starts following the movie.
Vega said those interested in participating can send an email to email@example.com or Kelsey Peachey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Potential extras can call and leave a message at 908-698-3386.