Historic theaters are trying out various strategies to raise funds for a conversion to digital projectors.
Have America’s independent, mom and pop cinemas slipped a sprocket? Suddenly, simultaneously, they are offering up T-shirts, movie posters, bottomless buckets of popcorn – even allowing patrons to reserve the theater for a private showing of the flick of their choice. How on earth are these rickety old businesses going to make ends meet with such extravagances?
It’s actually part of a strategy. Those are just a few examples of the lengths small US cinemas are going to in order to raise funds for the mandatory changeover from the century-old movie medium of 35-mm film to the pristine (and costly) new world of all-digital projection. By the end of 2013, virtually no contemporary motion pictures will be available on film, and although the megachains have been projecting digital films for several years now, most of the tiny, historical cinemas across America are facing a looming industry-wide edict: Convert or perish.
Since most of these small theaters barely scrape by to begin with, the $100,000 or so required to replace film projectors with digital ones for each screen is an expense few can handle without a clarion call to their customers, something along the lines of “HELLLLP!!!” Not all of them will be able to make it work. That an estimated 1,000 movie houses could go dark in the next few years is an unhappy thought, but hardly hyperbole.