I love experiencing films in 35mm. While I have a fairly extensive Blu-ray/DVD collection, there’s something magical about seeing movies on the big screen projected ON film. It’s the reason I still drive to archival theaters to see revivals of old favorites. There’s simply nothing like it.
Unfortunately, there’s another downside to the whole digital switch that theaters have embraced with surprising quickness. Turns out that many smaller, independently owned cinemas find themselves faced with a miserable ultimatum, so eloquently spelled out by John Fithian, CEO and president of the National Association of Theatre Owners: “Convert or die.”
The excellent editorial written by IndieWire journalist Michael Hurley illustrates the very real possibility that the United States could suddenly find itself down 1,000 theaters in the very near future, providing these businesses cannot make the switch to all digital delivery.
The problem is that making the switch to digital projection is a costly endeavor, with low-end estimates coming in around $65,000. To the large and soulless chains out there, this is no problem. But to small little theaters all across America, this is a much bigger issue. And it’s compounded by the fact that Hollywood seems anxious to jump to digital asap. For example, Fox has stated they will no longer be issuing films on 35mm over the course of the next year or two. How long until other studios follow in their wake?
My advice? If you have one of these movie houses around you, get out there and support it. It’s all we little people can do at this point, lest we be faced with an all-too-probable future where fewer theaters means less choice and more unpleasant patrons. What a terrifying world that would be.
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