As the clock ticks down for the end of 35mm film prints, so the race is on to save the last few small town cinemas that cannot afford the switch to digital. We are now talking months, not years.
In the United States funds typically come from one or a mixture of three sources, all of which we have profiled here at Celluloid Junkie in the past: local community fund-raising, on-line crowd funding and even grants or donations from the local Chambers of Commerce. There was even an effort to tap the Pepsi Refresh Project a few years back, while Honda did something similar for drive-ins.
But philanthropic foundations have had a relatively low profile until a recent effort got underway in Colorado. While charities alone cannot save all the small cinemas across the US, the experience in the Centennial State shows that they can provide critical seed funding. Over the next 12 to 24 months, this can mean the difference between life and death for thousands of small town cinemas across the United States.
Colorado’s Rural Theater Digital Conversion Grant
The key to the success of Colorado’s venture has been the bringing together of three critical actors: State authorities, non-profit bodies and private charities. As outlines last year in The Denver Post:
A number of foundations, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and the Denver Film Society have teamed up to create grants ranging from $10,000 to $30,000 for theaters converting to the new digital equipment required by the film industry.
Film distributors, which no longer distribute traditional celluloid prints, have converted to digital format. The new distribution method requires digital projectors, which cost an average of $60,000 to $70,000 each.
The state said many rural theaters can’t afford these projectors and will probably close, threatening the arts, culture and fabric of the community.
The last sentence has been crucial in mobilising government, business and philanthropic support, as we will see.