- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (AP) - Prineville’s Pine Theater made the switch from 35mm to digital films in September thanks, in part, to community donations during a “horseshoe campaign” held last summer.

“The horseshoes are in the ground,” owner Oniko Mehrabi said.

Mehrabi and her husband, Ali Mehrabi, last year went on a fundraising campaign to raise $80,000 to buy equipment that would allow the theater to begin showing digital movies.

Hollywood studios and distribution companies are phasing out 35 mm films in favor of digital. That means if theaters want to continue showing first-run films, they’ve got to come up with the cash to upgrade their equipment.

“We didn’t exactly know when studios would pull film entirely,” Ali Mehrabi said. “So we wanted to start getting ready.”

The Mehrabis couldn’t afford to pony up the cash themselves, so they decided to put on a Western-themed fundraising effort that fit with the flavor of their town. A $400 minimum donation was recognized with an engraved horseshoe set in concrete in front of the entrance to the theater.

“It was just a brainstorm idea between my wife and I,” Ali Mehrabi said. “We didn’t want to do just another engraved brick, and this fit the town’s Western appeal.”

Ali Mehrabi said they sold 243 horseshoes, receiving contributions from individuals and groups. Dan Johnson, a Central Oregon concrete contractor, installed the horseshoes May 4.

“When you do something like this you’re not sure whether it’s going to look good,” Ali Mehrabi said. “But people are saying it looks great.”

The Mehrabis purchased the theater in 2007 after the building sat vacant for 25 years. In 2011 they added a second screen. Ali Mehrabi said the switch to digital has been a learning experience with a few glitches along the way, but said overall it’s been worth it.

“The quality is great, the picture is clear and it self-focuses,” he said. “We had a couple mistakes when we first started and had to issue a couple refunds.”

He said without the help of Prineville residents, they wouldn’t have been able to purchase the equipment.

“We really appreciate the town and all the support they’ve shown us during this campaign,” Ali Mehrabi said.

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Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com