Talk about projecting yourself! Over the past century, the Cameo Cinema, in St. Helena, first projected silent films, then talkies, then 3D, computer-generated, digital epics. And now, on the eve of turning 100, the dowager screen queen is being remodeled to become the single best independent movie theater in America.
With more than $300,000 pledged from private donors, Cameo owner-operator Cathy Buck is remodeling the cinema. Local contractors are donating their time and Dolby has donated its top-of-the-line ATMOS screening system.
Cinema-goers are in for a treat. “With ATMOS, we’re adding many speakers, including in the ceiling, which will provide the best movie experience possible, “says Cathy.
“We will be the only independent, single-screen cinema in America with the ATMOS sound system and Meyer Sound speakers,” she adds.
That’s quite an achievement. Meyer Sound is considered THE top speaker-maker in the industry. The Berkeley-based firm makes all the top-end speakers for Pixar, Lucas Films, Skywalker Labs, American Zoetrope and Cirque du Soleil. That’s a Triple-A list of customers. Now add the tiny, tony, terrific Cameo and you get a sense of how good the sound system will be.
Factoid: There are 39,580 movie screens in America today. Not one will have a sound and projection system better than the Cameo's!
Additional reno details
When the renovation is completed, just ahead of the Cameo’s 100th Birthday Bash May 15, there will still be 142 seats. And, yes, all the love seats in the last two rows are coming back, all new but the color remains grape purple.
The theater has the size, feel and intimacy of a movie director’s private screening room at home.
At the confection counter, Cathy will add chocolates made locally at the CIA, and sweet potato chips made locally by Food of Love. There will also be a new popcorn machine.
“Every year, we fall short by $75,000, which we make up with fund-raising drives,” says Cathy. This was the reason she applied for, and received, 501c3 status. So now, Friends of the Cameo donations are tax deductible.
May 15 – Cameo’s Centennial Party
The Cameo opened its doors on Main Street, in St. Helena, on May 15, 1913. The first screening was a silent film, Kings of the Forest.
Which is what Cathy will screen for the 100th birthday bash. Musician Mike Greensill will accompany both the afternoon matinee and the evening screenings with an original score.
Each projection will be followed by a screening of Napa Valley Dreams, a special documentary, which has taken several years to produce; it’s a complete tour of our little paradise, Napa Valley, and it will play several times daily, seven days a week, at the new, upgraded Cameo starting May 16.
For the May 15 matinee birthday bash, doors open at 2 pm, the two films will be screened starting at 3 pm. Cameo popcorn and birthday cupcakes, baked by students at the CIA, are included in the $25 admission ticket.
For the evening screening, guests will first attend a Hollywood-like cocktail party at 7 pm at Caldwell Snyder Gallery, 1328 Main Street, St. Helena. Meadowood’s Michelin-starred chef Christopher Kostow will prepare hors d’oeuvre to accompany premium Napa Valley wines.
As well, chef John Defilippo of the CIA is creating a special anniversary centennial cake and chef Stephen Durfee is producing a unique chocolate sculpture. At 8 pm guests walk the red carpet to the Cameo Cinema to view the two films, which start at 8:30 pm. The $100 admission ticket for the evening includes food, libations and film screenings.
For additional information, visit cameocinema.com, or drop by the Cameo box office, which opens daily an hour before the day’s first screening. Or call 707-963-9779.
All proceeds from the 100th Birthday Bash will be donated to Cameo Cinema Community Programming.
Several years ago, I wrote a story about the Cameo Cinema under this headline:
The Second Best Thing You Can Do in the Dark in Napa Valley!
With the giddy rush that comes from watching films screened with the new sound and projection system, I may just have to revise this sentiment; watching films at the Cameo may just become the best thing you can do in the dark in Napa Valley!