A couple of local theaters are looking for help in the digital-movie age.
The Canton Palace Theatre has launched an online fundraising campaign through Indiegogo, a “crowdfunding” site which invites contributors big and small to support a project via online donations.
And Wadsworth’s Blue Sky Drive-In has been asking fans to vote for it in a nationwide Project Drive In contest in which the winning theaters will receive digital projectors courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. (And why a car company? Hello, this is a contest for drive-ins.)
The reason for such efforts is the declining use of film by movie makers and distributors, who are turning increasingly to digital formats, not only Blu-ray and DVD but DCP, a specially encoded system providing digital movies to theaters.
There’s plenty to talk about, including not only budgetary questions but ones about how a movie should look — whether digital is a “better” movie format than film. And that echoes in other technical arguments, such as how digitally downloaded music sounds in comparison to a CD, and how either sounds in relation to a vinyl record. On this issue, do cinephiles really want new and classic movies to have a digital feel?
Let’s look at some basics for now. According to the National Association of Theater Owners, the benefits of digital cinema include “consistent quality” to movies — since it eliminates the damage and wear sometimes found in film — and lower production and distribution costs. In fact, many filmmakers are already working in digital. At the 2013 Cleveland International Film Festival, only 15 of the 345 short and feature-length films were on 35mm film; the rest were in a digital form.
But showing of movies via DCP includes new projectors and other equipment with a final price tag in the five figures. The Palace, for example, estimates that conversion to DCP will cost about $80,000 for the projector and modifications of the theater’s projection booth, including removal of the current 35mm projector. And NATO has reported that a digital initiative by the Regal, Cinemark and AMC chains involved $880 million.
And, while you might think that some theaters would want to stay with older, traditional movie formats, that’s becoming almost impossible as distributors insist on making their films available only on digital, and specifically on DCP.
So Blue Sky on its website pleads for support because “we will face possible closure with the movie industry’s switch from film to digital. Film will no longer be available.”
The Palace — which can show movies on 35mm, DVD and Blu-ray — is already being told by some distributors that it’s DCP or nothing for future movies, said Georgia Paxos, executive director of the theater.
Movie showings generate about one fourth of the Palace’s operating budget, she said. And the Palace has already been told that the next time it shows The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a big Halloween fundraiser for the theater, it will have to be on DCP.
“If we could proceed the way that we have been, absolutely we would,” Paxos said. “But if we are not able to get the movies that people want to see in 35mm, it’s completely out of our hands. ... If we’re going to be a movie theater, this is how it’s going to be from now on.”
From sources other than the Indiegogo campaign, the Palace has raised about $12,000 so far. But it hopes to have the entire $80,000 by the end of September. It will take two weeks to make the changes for the new system, and it wants everything to be in place in time for Rocky Horror.
As I said, there’s more to talk about here as the impact of this digital transition ripples across theaters. But here’s how you can help these two venues make the transition:
For Blue Sky, go to its website, www.blueskydrive-in.com, for instructions on how to vote in the Honda contest. The voting ends Sept. 9.
For the Palace, go to www.indiegogo.com/projects/digital-cinema-conversion to make a pledge.
Speaking of fundraising … I mentioned not long ago the Kickstarter crowdfunding effort by Akron native Steven Marten to raise money for a book promoting a planned film called Kloon. The project wanted $33,600 to make 1,000 copies of the elaborate book and circulate them among movie-industry folks.
The effort surpassed its goal, with more than $37,000 raised.. You can see more about it at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/486483079/kloon.
Ohio Top Shots. The History Channel series Top Shot All-Stars, which airs at 10 p.m. Wednesdays, is down to five contenders, and three are from Northeast Ohio.
Chris Cerino of Wadsworth; Brian Zins, a former Poland, Ohio, resident now living in Girard, and Gary Quesenberry of Medina are all still battling for the $100,000 grand prize. The marksmanship series pits contenders from previous Top Shot seasons against each other. Cerino placed second in the show’s first season; Zins was the runner-up in the second season, and Quesenberry placed third in the show’s third season.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.