Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Small movie theaters say they may have to go dark because they lack money to go digital

The movie industry has decided to completely switch from traditional 35-millimeter film prints to digital files in the next year, causing problems for small, locally owned and often historic theaters that can't afford to buy new digital projectors. The switch is estimated to cost theaters $65,000 to $100,000 per projector. Theaters say they only make money on concessions, and often small theaters that draw small crowds make very small profits and can't afford to make the digital upgrades.

Kevin Bonham of the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota rounds up what theater owners in the Red River Valley think about the studios' mandate, with some saying they are going through a "soul-searching process." In Crookston, S.D., Bob Moore, owner of Moore Family Theaters, which owns the local Grand (Herald photo) and cinemas in three other towns, said he's unsure about the future. He's already made other improvements to screens and sound systems, but making the digital conversion seems like too much to bear. City officials and community groups in Grafton and Park River are thinking about fund-raisers and government grants to save the communities' theaters.

The story of The Roxy Theater in Langdon, N.D. could be an example, writes Bonham. The Northern Lights Arts Council bought the 1930s theater and raised more than $60,000 to renovate it in the 1990s. When the digital switch was announced, the council raised almost $85,000 for a digital projector. Donations came from many sources in the 1,800-plus-population town, including local businesses and farmers. (Read more)

Chris and Tammy Ball, owners of the Towne Cinema in West Liberty, Ky., are attempting a fundraiser to replace the 35mm projector with a digital one because they have a "desire to keep the long-running theater open," reports the Licking Valley Courier of West Liberty. If they don't raise almost $85,000, the theater may have to close. The Balls wrote a letter to the community via the newspaper asking for help. "Instead of throwing our resources into fighting a losing battle (an online petition has started to keep 35mm film), we are putting out efforts into upgrading our little ol' theater into the digital age," they said. They say other local businesses will suffer because people will have to drive a half hour or more to other towns see a movie if the theater closes.

1 comment:

jdmurray said...

The West Liberty Towne Cinema is also 'underground'! It's in the basement level of it's building. The eye doctor's office is above it. Unique, I would think!