EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSDEATH OF FILM
from Eyewitness News Online
Small Theaters Look For Ways To Make Digital Projection Switch
Reported by: Kennie Bass
Videographer: Brad Rice
Web Producer: Kennie Bass
Reported: Feb. 15, 2013 6:19 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 18, 2013 2:34 PM EST
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
Much like the stars of the animated "Ice Age" 35-millimeter film will soon be extinct.
For small operations like Harrison County's Sunset Ellis Drive-In, the transition was daunting and expensive. It costs between 70 and $100,000 dollars a screen to make the switch from film to digital projection. But with all of the major Hollywood studios moving away from film distribution if you don't make the move, the credits will roll on your theater.
However, the Sunset made the change and will open with new digital projectors in April.
"In a lot of articles here lately in the newspaper they gave the people the impression that once the 35-millimeter s are done the drive-ins are done," Anthony Ellis, owner of the Sunset Ellis Drive-In said. "And that's a misconception, that's not true. We have no intentions of closing."
Money is driving the push from film to digital. It costs 15-hundred dollars to print one 35-millimeter copy of a movie. A digital film costs one-tenth of that. Shipping a hard drive is also much less expensive than sending bulky film canisters around the country. Over the next few years Hollywood will save billions by going digital.
Spencer is the home of the nation's longest continuously operating theater. The Robey has been showing movies since 1907. But that rich history would not have preserved the theater's future if the owner had not installed a digital projector.
"Well, we knew we had to because if we didn't we knew we would be out of business in five to 10 years," Aaron Richardson, owner of the Robey Theatre said. "That was a given. They told us about 2007, 2008 that this industry is going digital and eventually there won't be any film."
Richardson says with studios putting pressure on theaters to convert to digital, it's just a matter of time until film goes away for good.
"I prefer digital," Richardson said. "It's a lot easier to work with. There's also no breaks. No wrecks and you don't have any mechanical issues. You don't have anything like that. It's a lot easier to use and there's a lot more opportunities for alternative content. Ball games, you can show boxing matches and stuff. Concerts and stuff like that life if you wanted to. I also like the 3D, that's been a nice addition."
But not every theater has made the move. The Elk in Sutton is still showing 35-millimeter films. But by the end of the year its owner says either that will change or the Elk will close.
"The major challenge is paying for the equipment," Charles Murphy, owner of the Elk Theatre said. "The up-front costs are anywhere from $30,000 for used equipment to as much as $100,000 dollars for new equipment. We really don't have the capital to do that. If we can't convert over to the digital then we're not gonna be able to stay open.
Murphy says he wants to save the 1930s era theater, which is the only one in Braxton County. He and his wife bought it in 2007 just to keep it open. But without help, their dream will die and the theater will shut down.
"We lose the tradition and we also lose something for the teenagers to do on the weekends," Murphy said. "There's not a whole lot for teenagers to do around here without getting in their car and getting on the interstate and driving for an hour. We need to raise at least 30-thousand dollars. So far we've raised a couple thousand. And, well we need help. We're not going to be able to do it ourselves."
For more information about the Elk Theatre conversion project visit their website at http://www.elktheatre.com/ and visit them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Elk-Theatre/272840523682?ref=ts&fref=ts
You can visit the Robey Theatre on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/robeytheatre?ref=ts&fref=ts
You can visit the Sunset Ellis Drive-In on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sunset-Ellis-Drive-In-Theater/212549758773219?ref=ts&fref=ts
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