The Wall Street Journal examines the plight of small-town single-screen cinemas that are unable to make the costly transition to digital in the article ‘Is Film the End of the Road for Small Cinemas?‘. It highlights one particular cinema near Scranton, Pennsylvania, facing imminent death-by-digital.
Hollywood’s major studios are in the final days of distributing movies on film reels and moving to digital distribution sent via hard drives or satellite, a method that is cheaper for studios but requires significant investment by theaters in new equipment. The conversion means theaters like Mrs. DiAugustine-Bower’s Berwick Theater could fade out for good.
The theater, about 50 miles southwest of Scranton, has raised only $6,000 so far, a difficult amount to earn by selling baked goods and old movie posters in an economically depressed town.
“I got a backlash from patrons when I mentioned raising ticket prices” to $5 from $4, said Mrs. DiAugustine-Bower.
But help has come for some from an unexpected quarter: Indian digital cinema integrator Scrabble.
About 87% of the 5,762 theaters in the U.S. are now digital, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners. The remaining 13% is mostly made up of one-screen independents, in rural communities with no multiplexes for miles.
More than half of the approximately 600 drive-in theater screens in the country have converted so far, according to the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association.
Scrabble Ventures LLC has begun leasing digital projectors to small theaters that can’t afford a lump-sum payment. Chief Executive Ranjit Thakur said the company has converted 370 theaters so far with more than 400 scheduled over the next three months.
Kickstarter, the Colorado State program, Kiwanis International club, state department funding and local donations are ways that some of that other cinemas have managed to raise funds.
USA (CA): As we highlighted in our item on ArcLight coming to Santa Monica, existing cinemas there will have to shrink to compete. Hence Laemmle’s 4 screen will ‘expand and contract’.
The Second Street cinema currently has four screens and about 1,100 seats but a proposed makeover would add two screens and drop the seat total to below 500, said Laemmle CEO Greg Laemmle.
The largest theater would hold about 150, which is about the capacity of the current smallest theater. Two mezzanine-level theaters would seat about 35, Laemmle said.
“The row spacing is better and we believe the sight lines will also be better,” Laemmle said. “The added screens provide flexibility to show more movies for longer.” LINK