She doesn\’t get eaten by the eels at this time

In one of those subtle alterations to the universe one is never really sure actually occurs 1, the movie industry intends to completely switch from traditional 35-millimeter film prints to digital (files) this year.

Should be a good thing, right? Clearer, crisper images; magnificent color; what some vendors advertise as ‘perfect picture and sound’, with an increased flexibility regarding advertising pre-show material.

Probably, but what you don’t hear much about is the cost to the theaters — an estimated $65,000 to $100,000 per projector. Which is one hell of a lot of popcorn, candy and soda sales (theaters have traditionally made the majority of their money on concessions.)

For the larger chains this may be just a rounding error. However, the cost has led some pundits to predict the death of ‘art houses’.

In West Liberty, Ky., Towne Cinema owners Chris and Tammy Ball ran a fundraiser to replace their 35mm projector with digital. No word as yet whether they raised the needed $85k. 2

A little closer to home the Cheyenne Theater (St. Francis, Kansas) started their digital conversion process back in March of 2011. In conjunction with the St. Francis City Council, a whopping $94K was raised, to include the city committing $12.5K for 5 years to the project, and a city-wide fundraiser that brought in another $42K.

Yet counting on an open checkbook from our city fathers is not a luxury Kansas City theaters like Screenland and Tivoli Cinemas can bank on. 3 Which means those theaters find/raise the cash on their own or make other plans.

Screenland Armour owner, Butch Rigby, is making other plans.

None of ours (theaters) are converted and there does not seem to be an economic model that works for us (and many other small theatres)…we have to be creative in our programming in the future.”

…(as for Screenland) we’re probably going more toward our beginnings: showing films that you would not otherwise see on a big screen…it is an interesting future for small theatres and discount theatres around the country.”

Meanwhile the Tivoli is making the transition…slowly.

Like all art houses across the country, we are in the process of converting our auditoriums to accommodate digital projections. As you can imagine, this is a long, expensive and inevitable march. But, it is where the industry in moving and the studios and distributors will soon require it. Independent filmmakers and distributors will follow suit.”

“If your query is attempting to ask the deeper question about “what does this mean for 35mm”, we remain committed, but also very aware of how film as an art form is evolving.”

And what about that staple of Americana, the drive-in?

Globe Cinemas, which (sorta) encompasses the I-70 and the Twin drive-ins, as well as screens at Noland Fashion Center and The Pharaoh, has yet to convert.

(We’ve) not converted yet. The Noland location is a $2 house; doesn’t make any economic sense. And digital doesn’t seem to be designed for outdoors, so the drive-ins aren’t converted.”

And if the industry makes the switch whole-hog, and produces no more 35 mm prints?

If that happens, if there are no more 35mm films? We”ll reevaluate from there…”

Our advice? Get off your fat ass, shut down the Netflix bullshit once or twice a week and patronize and otherwise support our locally owned theaters; take the kids to the drive-in more often. 4

If you don’t…

WNBTv - Good TV!

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Because they’re that good.
  2. The Courier only publishes on paper, and then just on Thursdays; if someone has already finished reading their copy, could you fax it my way?
  3. Who are we kidding? Unless the request comes from the favored developers A-list, no money for anything reasonable is ever forthcoming from the council. Hell, the jack-assess can’t even fill the potholes…
  4. Leave the multi-plexes to the masses of children and smart-phone addicts to whome the chains market their ‘movies.

3 thoughts on “She doesn\’t get eaten by the eels at this time”

    1. Good man…though you could spend more time at the Fine Arts/Screenland/Tivoli and give AMC a miss now and again- they’re so huge your (relatively) miniscule $$$ won’t be missed….

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