Film Industries Shift To Digital Format
By JAMES DOCKETT Forum Guest Writer
The movie theater industry, for a majority of its existence, has championed the 35mm (millimeter) projector as the best choice for overall quality and reliability, but with the advent of new digital technology, 35mm is quickly becoming obsolete. By 2013, many, if not all, theaters will only have digital projectors. The time has surely come for movie theater owners to take that next step into the digital age but at what cost?
The changeover is great for some of the larger chain theaters that can afford the large price tags on new digital projectors, but for other smaller, more locally owned and operated theaters, the changeover is basically a death sentence. This is making many independent theater owners debate on whether or not it’s even an option to stay open after the changeover.
Jamestown 14 Cinema, previously owned by Wehrenberg Theaters, is a local independent theater that is on the fence as to whether or not to stay open after the changeover. “It depends on how this year looks, revenue-wise. That’s the only way we’ll know whether to make the change or not,” said Donovan Dansberry, manager at Jamestown 14 Cinema. “If we do well enough for the next two quarters, a changeover could be possible.”
This movie industry shift to all digital is considered by some to be the biggest change to the industry since sound was introduced to films.
The predominant reason for the changeover is shipping and production costs. On average, a movie slated for distribution costs $700 to $1000 just to have it printed on 35mm film. Multiply that cost by the average number of theaters required for a wide release (600). Then add the shipping costs for a box of film weighing 40 to 50lbs getting to and from theaters. The price tag adds up quite quickly.
Also, a large number of films are no longer reusable after their run at a movie theater. They are either too badly scratched from running through the old projectors or are just plain damaged from accidents or negligence. All of these are symptoms of 35mm films that production companies want to avoid, and digital allows them to do that.
Digital films are distributed as hard drives that weigh less than 10lbs. They cost, on average, $150 to produce and the substantially lowered weight saves money on shipping costs. Not to mention, they display the image at higher quality than 35mm and are fully reusable making them environmentally friendly and excellent for redistribution.
The savings for the industry and the environment are all great and are backed with straightforward logic, but even with all the benefits the impact on some local communities could be devastating. This changeover reaches into the pockets of stocking companies, shipping companies, maintenance and janitorial companies, and of course other local area businesses surrounding the recently vacant movie theaters. It will definitely produce a ripple that will go far beyond just the individual theater.
In this ever-advancing technological age, staying ahead of the curve is the key to success. Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” This is truer now than ever, but especially for movie theaters.
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