This could be curtains for many movie theaters
The film industry plans to complete its costly conversion from film to digital projectors by year-end — which many small movie houses can’t afford.
It really is the end of an era for a lot of movie theaters and their customers, especially at independent movie houses in areas where the chains like Regal (RGC 0.00%) and AMC (purchased last year by a Chinese conglomerate) don’t operate. That’s because the film industry is getting ready to complete its conversion from film to digital movie projectors.
This change has been coming for over a decade, but the switch to digital projectors was slowed by the new devices’ expense — and arguments between theater owners and Hollywood over who would absorb those costs.
Gary Susman at Moviefone notes the film studios “stand to save as much as $1 billion per year on the cost of striking and shipping film prints, once they can simply stream or email a digital file to every booked screen with a single click.” But that savings wasn’t passed on to the movie houses, which have to pay about $70,000 to $80,000 per screen to convert to digital projectors.
And it’s the small-town theaters — some of them “movie palaces” that witnessed the conversion from silent films to talkies nearly a century ago — that stand to suffer the most when digital projection is the norm across North America by year-end.
Note from T J Brearton of the Adirondack Film Society: There are differing points of view on how we help our regional theatres. Some people don’t feel it is a taxpayer obligation, that the theatres “should have seen this coming.” The fact is, the studios are going to save millions no longer shipping prints. And not shipping prints is a good thing too – it’s better for the environment. But this savings and efficiency has not been passed on to the small business owner who runs a local theatre. Instead, it’s been used to squeeze him out. Big studios want to control the product from concept to exhibition, and they’re happy to see the little guys go away. This is just another case of the homogenization of culture. It’s Wal-mart, It’s Disneyland, It’s strip-mall-America. It’s not so much whether we help fund our theatres to convert, or help shepherd them into an alternative programming method and away from big distributors – what’s important (some might say “paramount”) is to show support for our local businesses, no matter what they may be, and help preserve the character and integrity of our Adirondack villages.