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Rialto Center for the Arts Reboots Cinema Roots With New Digital Projector, Screen


Marking a return to the venue’s roots as an urban movie palace, the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University has announced the installation of a new digital film projector and cinema screen.

The additions — the result of a successful multiyear fundraising effort that began in 2017 — enable the downtown venue to continue presenting its popular year-round live events series and Georgia State’s student music and stage performances while also offering a new big-screen experience for Atlanta film screenings.

“This newly installed digital projector and screen marks the culmination of a six-year fundraising effort nearing its end,” said Lee Foster, executive director of the Rialto Center for the Arts. “This technology enables our team to provide audiences with the very latest in cinematic display and audio options, while also enabling our events team to engage with the state’s thriving film and television industry to create elevated film premiere experiences.”

Rialto Advisory Board Vice Chair Christopher Escobar (B.A. ’08, M.A. ’13), known regionally for his leadership of the Atlanta Film Society (ATLFS), Atlanta Film Festival (ATLFF), the Plaza Theatre and the recently announced return of Atlanta’s Tara Theatre, and Rialto Production Manager Michael Williams (B.A. ’97), founder of the student-run Cinefest, helped champion the Rialto team’s multiyear planning and purchase of the new projection and screen equipment.

“This installation creates a world-class movie premiere destination in the heart of the South’s thriving film community,” said Escobar. “It’s been a long-term vision of the Rialto team to deliver a modernized movie experience to complement the venue’s established designation ‘Where Atlanta Meets the World’ for live music, dance and theatrical events.

“Along with Lee Foster and the entire Rialto team, I personally can’t wait to welcome Atlanta Film Festival and other film organizations — and their movie-loving audiences — back to downtown to experience this new technology with all the comforts of the Rialto experience, which is something special about which Atlantans should be proud,” Escobar added.

The Rialto made the announcement with two film events already secured for spring. The venue will host a private film premiere event April 3, and in late April the Atlanta Film Festival (ATLFF) will host one of its special screening events at Rialto. Specifics for the ATLFF event — which provides the public with the first opportunity to experience the new projector and screen — will be announced by ATLFF later in March.

“We will also host a special event for longtime Rialto supporters as well as film and TV industry executives to learn more about the new film capabilities,” said Foster. “We may also announce other film-centric events and experiences when we roll out the Rialto’s 2023-24 season during June.”

“Our updates to Rialto also complement Georgia State President M. Brian Blake’s strategic plan through which the campus can become a “college town downtown and sought-after destination,” added Foster.

For industry professionals or cinephiles, the new projection and screen equipment includes:

  • DCP Video provided by a Cinionic Barco 4K resolution, 25,000 lumen laser projector. The upgrade delivers an elevated movie presentation with laser-sharp images, exceptional brightness, deeper contrast and vivid colors, as 4K is four times as many pixels as 1080 HD.
  • The hoist-animated, motorized screen is a perforated, 35’ x 19’8” Stewart Lexus Grande S8 with any aspect ratios of 2.35:1 to 1:1 square possible with manually adjustable side masking.

Other video projection and 35mm available at the Rialto include:

  • HD video projector at 12,000 lumens which may also be used to project images on backdrops or moved on-stage for rear projection.
  • Dual-35mm projection with two matching Century SA film projectors. Rialto can present rare, archival and museum prints with minimal wear and tear because each reel is projected independently.
  • The Rialto is currently a Dolby 5.1 theater utilizing Dolby’s CP650 processor. The in-house Meyer PA system may also be integrated into presentations.

“Adding this massive, industry-grade screen, which may be lowered into place at the touch of a button, is a marvel and game changer for Rialto,” said Escobar. “This was a significant investment that took extra time but was done right.”

The newly installed projection equipment is compatible with the venue’s current Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround Sound system. Additional funds will help the venue upgrade or replace the entire cinema audio system with eventual installation of new, state-of-the-art audio processors, amplifiers and cinema speakers.

To purchase the new film equipment, the Rialto Center for the Arts embarked on a multiyear fundraising campaign to raise more than $350,000 needed for the upgrades. Though progress advanced quickly in early months, challenges related to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic paused the effort, which regained steam as venue operations resumed in 2021. During this time, the venue’s applications for various grants resulted in an infusion of funds toward the projector and screen.

“By spring 2022 we raised $317,269, just shy of 90 percent of our goal (89.5 percent), so we knew we could proceed with the equipment purchase during fall 2022, with Michael’s oversight to complete installation work in early 2023,” said Foster. “We remain about $37,000 shy of our overall fundraising goal.

“To upgrade the Dolby sound system, including building and installing speakers and other equipment, we encourage movie fans to please help us cross the finish line,” Foster added.

Contributions are accepted online via by selecting the “Rialto Movie Screen Upgrades” designation in the pulldown menu. Organizations interested in booking venue options should contact Rialto Center Events Manager Christopher Duenow at 404-413-9814 or Screen advertising and sponsorship naming rights options — to engage Rialto’s diverse audiences — are also available. Contact Foster via for details.

“Previously it was expensive and complicated to host cinema events at Rialto, and now it will be so easy, affordable and convenient for both planners and audiences,” Escobar said. “Nearby parking, MARTA access, the venue’s massive lobby, Presidential Suite and backstage green room options all combine to place Rialto among the top contenders for film events.”


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