Skip to main content
Enter search terms below.

Dryden Theatre Reopening March 2 After Major Renovation

Jan 30th, 2013

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - The Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House will reopen Saturday, March 2, after a two-month closure to allow for extensive renovations and enhancements to the auditorium and projection booth. Guest artist on opening night will be Oscar®-winning director and writer Alexander Payne, who will present his highly acclaimed 2004 feature Sideways. Tickets go on sale Saturday, Feb. 2.


Features in the new Dryden - one of the world's leading and oldest archival theaters - include new seats, new carpeting, enhanced ceiling and aisle lighting, more legroom, a new screen, and digital projection. The original seats from 1951 were sold to the public in January and are being replaced with ones larger in size and burgundy in color with wooden armrests.


The installation of a Barco digital projector will enable the presentation of contemporary cinema through digital media. A key component of this project is acknowledging the rise of digital formats while continuing to showcase historic film prints, honoring the aesthetic choices of filmmakers by projecting both analog and digital movie images as they were intended to be seen. The Dryden is one of only five theaters in the country equipped for the projection of original nitrate film (film made before 1951) and this capacity will be maintained in the upgraded projection booth.


"The Dryden Theatre is more than a movie theater," said Dr. Paolo Cherchi Usai, senior curator of motion pictures. "It is the exhibition gallery for the art of cinema as seen, interpreted, and explained by George Eastman House. We want the Dryden Theatre to be a state-of-the-art exhibition venue for the museum and a place where cinema, as an event, finds its most perfect manifestation."


A new hearing-induction loop system for the hard-of-hearing is also part of the project, made possible by the Rochester Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America. The renovated Dryden also will feature an automated masking for the screen to accommodate all cinematic formats and the popular gold curtain, which rises before each screening, will be re-hung. The balcony layout is being reconfigured to allow for more legroom, which will lower the number of seats in the theater from its current 535 to 500 seats.


Final phase of a decade-long project

The Dryden Theatre renovation is being funded largely by a grant from the New York State Senate, as well as support from individual donors. The State Senate also appropriated funds for the first two phases of the Dryden Theatre renovation project, which began in 2001 with improvements to the lobby and box offices. The second phase in 2007 was a technology upgrade that resulted in the installation of new projectors, speakers and amplifiers, PA system, and projection screen.


Special events in March and April to celebrate the reopening

Events are planned for March and April to celebrate the reopening of the renovated Dryden Theatre. Oscar®-winning filmmaker Alexander Payne (The Descendants, About Schmidt, Election) will help kick off the reopening at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 2 by introducing his film Sideways and engaging in a Q&A following. Advance tickets for the film will be reserved seating and go on sale Saturday, Feb. 2 for the Payne event (at $30 each/$25 for members), in person at the museum or online at


A "Grand Reopening" dinner will take place on March 2, beginning at 5:30 p.m. with "first look" arrival in the newly renovated theater and a dinner in the museum featuring accompanying wines inspired by the Sideways story. Honorary event chairs are Robert Forster - an Oscar®-nominated actor, native Rochestarian, and trustee emeritus of George Eastman House, who recently appeared in Alexander Payne's The Descendants (2011) - and Jack Garner - the retired chief film critic for the Gannett News Service, who continues to review film for radio and television and Gannett newspapers across the country and in journals worldwide. The event is sponsored by Frontier and County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA) with in-kind support from Constellation Brands. Dinner reservations are $200 per person and include reserved seating for the film. Details are online at


Oscar®-nominated director James Ivory (Room with a View, Remains of the Day, Howard's End) will visit the Dryden at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 6, and present his 1995 film Jefferson in Paris. An accompanying Dryden series of his films will be screened every Wednesday in April, featuring films from the Merchant Ivory Productions archive preserved at Eastman House. Advance tickets go on sale for the Ivory event in March.


"Take a Seat" in the Dryden

The public is invited to become part of this important moment in the history of the Dryden by sponsoring a seat in the renovated auditorium. Your name, or the name of a loved one or honoree, will be engraved on a permanent brass plaque on the arm of a seat. Those who sponsor seats will be invited to an exclusive construction walk-through and special reopening events. A sponsored seat is $1,000 and a specifically selected seat is $1,500. For more information, please

call (585) 271-3361 ext. 384 or visit


History of the Dryden Theatre

The Dryden Theatre is named for George Eastman's niece, Ellen Dryden, and her husband, George, who funded its construction in memory of Eastman's contribution to motion pictures. Eastman is heralded as the father of motion picture film, having provided the film for Thomas Edison's movie machines beginning in 1889, and dominating the industry for all decades thereafter. The Dryden has welcomed hundreds of filmmakers and actors in its 62 years and more than 1 million audience members. The repertory screenings feature titles from studios, fellow archives, and the George Eastman House motion picture archive, which is the third largest in the United States.


Attn. Media

High-res art of the Dryden and Alexander Payne is online at

View all News