Miamisburg Plaza Theatre revamp: ‘As high tech as any theater ... on planet Earth’

Historic theater adds 4K laser projector and state-of-the-art sound system; plans to add digital wraparound marquee

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

The Plaza Theatre, going on eight years as a revitalized fixture of downtown Miamisburg’s Main Street strip, is upgrading its audio-visual systems to provide a better visitor experience for years to come.

The nonprofit entity is spending more than $300,000 in donations raised for the project, which started out when it sought to update its 2K lamp projector, a device considered state of the art when it was installed in 2015, according to Doug Sorrell, who serves on the Historic Plaza Theatre’s emeritus board of directors.

“Initially, it was going to cost $8,000, and that was like a no-brainer to do it, and then that price went to $18,500, so we decided ‘Why don’t we just maybe look about purchasing a new projector?’ ” Sorrell said.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

He said Austin Eggers, the theater’s “guru when it comes to technology,” researched numerous companies and devices and then decided on a 4K laser projector that offers a “sharper, clearer image” than the previous model and costs $75,000.

“We decided, if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly, and we voted to go ahead and purchase,” he said. “We’re going to be as high tech as any theater, first-round or otherwise, on planet Earth and that is very cool.”

The Plaza Theatre building at 33 S. Main St. was a theater from 1919 to 1968, then Sor-rell’s western shop from 1969 to 2002, then sat vacant for 13 years before reopening as a 292-seat theater in 2015.

The theater is in the holiday spirit this week, with showings of “Journey to Bethlehem,” “A Christmas Story,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” and “White Christmas.” Show times can be found at

Eggers said one of the main reasons the Plaza Theatre changed projectors was for added brightness.

“With the laser projector, we can get about 15,000 lumens, which is a measurement of light,” he said. “(With) our old one ... we would be lucky if it would hit 9,000 (lumens). Essentially, we can now get a brighter image (and) darker blacks, so a better contrast and better clarity in terms of the definition. We are moving to 4K.”

Sorrell said the theater’s former digital projector required bulb changing every 1,250 to 1,500 hours, which typically occurred every eight months at a cost of about $900 each time. The new projector will last at least 40,000 hours, he said.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

This fall, the theater replaced its aging speaker system with new equipment and mounted “massive, behind-the-screen speakers” on 8-foot stands aimed at the auditorium seats, Sorrell said. Also installed was a new subwoofer and two additional speakers, bringing the total to 16 speakers driven by a single 16-channel amplifier.

All of that is being driven by new state-of-the-art Dolby amplifier equipment.

The Plaza Theatre also plans to install a new, digital, wraparound marquee this month.

“We can run it from an iPad inside the building,” Sorrell said. “We’re going to run current and upcoming films on it, upcoming events in the plaza. We’re also going to use it to advertise community events.”

The new technology will even allow the theater to display full-color graphics in the background, Eggers said.

In all, the Plaza Theatre Board invested more than $300,000 in capital improvements over the last 18 months, underwritten entirely by “the kindness of people in this area” contributing private donations, Sorrell said.

He is pleased with how the upgrade effort turned out.

“I feel like ... I’ve helped oversee everything that needed to be done to ensure the viability of this little community project into the future for families and their kids and their grandkids,” he said. “I mean, we’re good for the next 15 years.”.

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