Independent movie theaters are closing rather than face the high costs of converting to digital projection.
Am I just nostalgic for the little art-house cinema, or will celluloid projection become as anachronistic as buggy whips and floppy discs? Is it inevitable?
I rather enjoyed the rhythmic noise of a projector above and behind me in the old cinema where I spent much of my teenage years. But that’s just an aesthetic. Now we;re talking about the survival of small cinemas.
What say you?
Yeah, it’s a bummer that we’re actually getting to this point . . . even if this is something that been clearly visible on the horizon for quite some time now.
“or will celluloid projection become as anachronistic as buggy whips and floppy discs? Is it inevitable?”
This from the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts last year:
“By the end of 2012, according to IHS Screen Digest Cinema Intelligence Service, the majority of theaters will be showing movies digitally. By 2013, film will slip to niche status, shown in only a third of theaters. By 2015, used in a paltry 17 percent of global cinemas, venerable old 35 mm film will be mostly gone.”
While I’m disappointed to see film going the way of the Dodo, I am happy to report that Asheville’s Fine Arts Theatre, located in downtown, has been able to raise the funds to do a digital conversion and will not have to go out of business! When I moved here, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but for a town of only about 75,000 people, they do alright.
I’m not a fan of digital projection, you can still kind of make out the pixels. If I want to watch pixelated films, that’s what TV is for.
Yeah, the Mayfair Theatre in Ottawa is raising money to go digital too. The Mayfair is one of Canada’s oldest cinemas and they do a lot of cult screenings and stuff. Too bad about film dying but at least the place is staying open.
Just wait until movie theaters in general become a niche.
Anyone been seeing them fancy DCAP restorations? I’ve seen a couple at Film Forum and Museum of the Moving Image, and it’s been a mixed bag; the detail is genuinely amazing, but everything is very different, especially compared to a non-restoration 35mm or 70mm print, in which a lot of fuzziness and color error is pretty much a given.
Soon, perhaps, no one can accurately claim to be “watching a film.”
Like so many things in life, it seems to come down to the fundamental issue of cost. Ad striking film prints is a huge part of the distribution expense.
Still, I wonder sometimes that in the headlong rush to adopt new technology simply because they can, few people stop to ponder whether they should.
I was fortunate enough to see a pre-restoration re-release of Vertigo in 1983 on a screen specifically created to exploit the potential of the VistaVision process used on that film. It was stunning. And it unspooled with actual film.
On a semi-related note, the actual merits of restoration can be cheapened when the restorers add their personal touch to the effort. The notorious Vertigo restoration, to return to that example, includes different foley effects and alters the aspect ratio of some sequences. The restorers also add themselves on a screen of closing credits after the blackout on Scotty, peering down from the tower, which transitions to the paramount logo. I could do without such credits and film tampering, even though I financially support restoration efforts on their own merit.
I must be the only person who thinks digital projection looks better than release prints of films.
“Just wait until movie theaters in general become a niche.”
It’s unfortunate that the conversion to digital is one of those expensive things that is causing indie theatres to close when the point itself is to make the process of getting image —> eye cheaper and quicker. I hope several of the theatres are at least trying some crowdfunding campaigns or the like to rally around the switch if possible. My indie theatre not only was able to upgrade to digital, but recently replaced all their seats, and I’ve been to two sold out shows in recent weeks there, which I had never seen there previous to two years ago, which shows they’re really keeping on their feet.
Scorched earth, not progress.
I have what I think amounts to a silly question:
When they switch to digital, does the distributer send the theaters a disc (and what kind of disc—how is it better than a regular Blu ray/dvd), or some kind of drive?
This cost of this is really unfortunate; I know that our two independent theaters will have a tough time raising funds. Not to mention the cost of storing the master copies in digital form, which I have read is much more expensive than storing actual film . (although that NY Times article was written in 2007)
Actually, basically it comes to the theater as what’s called a Digital Cinema Package on a special hard drive that looks like this:
DCPs are mastered in 4K resolution, which means, I think, it’s in the neighborhood of four times the resolution of Blu-ray and 10 times that of DVD.