Smaller Movie Theaters Go Dark Around The Country


UPDATED: Friday February 15, 2013 6:37 PM

Films have fascinated the public since the 1890s, but while movies continue to entertain, film itself may face extinction.

As Hollywood modernizes, many smaller movie theaters around the country are having to close their doors.

In Circleville, John Rankin was forced to close The Movie House, a small theater with two large screens.

He said he could not afford to replace his projectors, which worked fine but were not digital. For Hollywood, it is cheaper to ship a cassette than a 50-pound film reel.

“It’s a very small operation, a very small audience, and we simply don’t have the revenue to be able to afford to replace the equipment,” said Rankin. “We had to close.”

Rankin said it would cost more than $80,000 each to replace the film projectors with digital projectors.

The theater owner said big chains can afford the switch, but many independents are in trouble.

He said the movie industry has told theater owners that they still can get movies on film, but only three to four weeks after they have opened. He shows those at The Screening Club with 36 seats.

But once the industry switches completely to digital, possibly by the year’s end, that will close, too.

In Columbus, another independent theater owner made a different choice.

Eric Brembeck of Studio 35 said it’s change or die.

“We saw the handwriting on the wall, so we started sort of planning for it,” Brembeck said.

The owner got a loan to remodel and a liquor license. He opened a bar and then started showing other events, too, from sports to Presidential debates.

“It’s just a community place where people want to come and see these big events on the screen with a bunch of friends and neighbors,” Brembeck said. “You can’t just, in my opinion, rely on just showing the movie. You have to become something different.”

Rankin said that in small towns, Brembeck’s plan might not work.

“I find it very frustrating,” Rankin said.

Rankin said the digital projectors also are more expensive to repair. While he can fix a film projector with a screwdriver and some oil, some digital projectors might need a computer expert to fix them.

About half of the U.S. military bases also will lose their theaters because the Army and Air Force Exchange Service said it is not cost effective to convert.

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