Library in Providence seeks advice

posted by provcomlib on December 27, 2010 at 10:48 am

PROVIDENCE, RI — I’m the Office Manager and an Events & Programing Coordinator for the Providence Community Library system. I’ve started showing movies at one of our locations, using DVDs and a digital projector (onto a blank wall currently), but, as somewhat of a film buff, would like to upgrade to 16mm and eventually 35mm showings. Looking for someone local who could offer advice in choosing the right projector(s), screen and general operation / setup. Also looking to buy, or have loaned or donated, 16mm and 35mm features. We already have a public performance license that covers many of the films I’d like to show. Email me at .

Thank you

Comments (13)

KenLayton on December 27, 2010 at 10:56 am

Join the forums at

They have plenty of members who can recommend 16mm and 35mm projectors.

Bruce Calvert
Bruce Calvert on December 27, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Yes, I would second Ken’s recommendation about . You can also buy and sell films there. Your other option is eBay. Most of the places that rent 16mm films have gone out of business, but Swank and Kino still rent 16mm, and Kino and Milestone still rent 35mm.

Roloff on December 27, 2010 at 3:24 pm

You have to take in account that there’s not many modern titles available on 16mm (I’m not sure about the US, but I would say pretty much nothing after the year 2000) and could also consider Blu-Day and a Full-HD projector, which will have a quality comparable to 16mm although the master used for the Blu-ray have been digitally restored and will more than often look amazing and prestine, while older 16mm prints can look quite used.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been a projectionist for the last 14 years and am a film programmer as well as a collector, but Blu-Ray is something you should consider given it’s ease of use and setup.

Robert Allen
Robert Allen on December 27, 2010 at 6:44 pm

The guys are right. The last 16mm print was made in about 2006 and DVDs look better than an old 16mm print. If you can get what you want on DVD then I wouldn’t consider 35mm. Make sure what you are showing is covered by your public performance license or you will have to deal directly with the distributor of that film.

raymondgordonsears on December 28, 2010 at 7:46 am

As an old film collector it was hard for me to make the move to DVD. If you have the budget to do it right make the move to video. Buy a good pj, screen and audio system. In the long run it will pay off and the bottom line you viewers will be very with the presentation. rg

provcomlib on December 28, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Thanks for the responses! We do have a public performance license (through a subsidiary of Swank) and also have the capability to, and have been showing, movies projected from DVDs. While DVD will remain as our go-to format out of necessity, I do think it would be fun to organize 16mm / 35 screenings occasionally. I suppose it’s just the librarian / archivist in me, wanting to utilize those classic formats…real books (not ipads or kindles!), vinyl records, real film…!

Robert Allen
Robert Allen on December 29, 2010 at 3:19 am

There is plenty of used 35mm equipment available which costs a lot less than new and will last for many years. Any theatre supply company can help you. Try They also handle 16mm.

MPol on December 29, 2010 at 4:29 am

I think that the reason 16mm films are virtually obsolete and so hard to come by is because they’re really bootleg films.

EvanJChase on December 31, 2010 at 8:12 am

35mm film is VERY expensive to rent, transport to and from your location and not always as clean, sharp and trouble-free as digital. WHY would you want to run 16mm? To get a bright enough picture on a large screen, you would need a high-intensity type projector (expensive)and since the film size is so small, it is hard to get a sharp focus on the screen. Good quality transfer DVDs and Blu-Rays look great on a big screen. We run a classic movie series in a theatre with a 25 foot screen with professional quality DLP digital projection and it looks far better than the worn, soft focus classic film prints available from most distributors. Digital is SO much better now than even a few years ago. Invest in a good quality DLP digital projector with at least 5000 lumens for medium size screens, and over 7000 lumens for larger screens up to 20 feet wide.

EvanJChase on December 31, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Another thought….you have a fantastic historic theatre in your town with a mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ—-why not co-op with them for a film series—have the organ played before the show and during intermission. You could do silent films, too. (Public Domain titles include Phantom of the Opera and Keaton’s The General which would probably require no rental fees if digitally projected)

Bruce Calvert
Bruce Calvert on January 6, 2011 at 11:02 pm

If you are going to show DVDs, you audience may wonder why they should attend when they can see a DVD at home for almost free.

Also, even though a film like PHANTOM OF THE OPERA may be a public domain title, the restorations by companies like David Shepard/Film Preservation Associates or Milestone Films are still copyrighted, especially the music. If you have a public performance license, then you can show them at your library, although FPA or Milestone would not actually see any money for the use of their DVD restoration.

There are 16mm collectors that may be able to help you. I think that Mr. Chase is assuming that you have a huge auditorium when he is referring to the picture brightness.

provcomlib on September 28, 2011 at 5:01 pm


Thought I’d come back here with a follow up to my original post.

Long story short, I liberated (and am still in the process of hauling them all out) a big stash of 16mm feature films from the basement of a library in southern RI a few weeks ago. Stuff like, but not limited to:

The 39 Steps The 400 Blows 8 ½ The Bicycle Thief The Brotherhood Casablanca Dressed to Kill Gone With The Wind The Grand Illusion Islands in the Stream It’s A Wonderful Life The Lady Vanishes “M” The Man Who Knew Too Much Metropolis Murder on The Orient Express Night of the Living Dead The Third Man

etc, etc!

I also now have an arsenal of nicely working 16mm projectors (Eikis and Elmos, all slotloaders).

We’ll be showing Night of the Living Dead around Halloween next month to celebrate this find.

Here’s some press on it:

Dramatrauma on October 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Congrats on the great haul provcolimb! Hope you have a fun NOTLD showing. Can you re post the links? Your last post has a a whole left column missing.

A 16mm and 8 mm enthusiast friend just had a party showing some shorts and Forbidden Planet. FP had turned red and the sound wasnt ideal but the atmosphere was definitely more fun with the sound of the projector and the whirr of teh reels. And the “at home” versions of The Mummy and that monster movie bout the giant tarantula terrorizing new mexico were deifinitely “better” in 10 minute formats. Viva La Celluloid!!

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