LAKE PLACID — The Palace Theater is nearly come of digital age.
The community has raised more than $125,000 to help the Main Street, Lake Placid, movie theater cross the digital divide.
A final Push for the Palace is underway, along with a special Mirror Lake Inn Challenge for area business owners.
The cost of digital movie equipment has proven challenging for small, local theaters. The Palace Theater was not among four others receiving grants via the North Country Regional Economic Development Council as the funding cycle closed in 2013.
“That’s why we have created a stand-alone Push for the Palace program,” explained Jennifer Jubin, who is helping coordinate Go Digital or Go Dark efforts at the Adirondack North Country Association.
At about the same time, Ed Weibrecht, owner of the Mirror Lake Inn, established the Mirror Lake Inn Challenge.
“Ed Weibrecht is challenging the business community to raise $5,000,” Jubin said Thursday.
Mirror Lake Inn has put up $1,000 already.
“And Ed (Weibrecht) has said, if the community rallies together and reaches the $5,000 mark, he will increase his own and the Mirror Lake Inn’s contribution,” Jubin said.
Weibrecht’s initiative echoes the way the Palace Theater was established decades ago, she said.
“When the Palace was started back in the 1930s, it was started by the community. And the Mirror Lake Inn specifically put in funding to make it happen at the time.”
Both fundraisers, working together, hope to raise the last $25,000 needed for digital conversion at the Palace in Lake Placid.
TWO DONE, TWO TO GO
So far, two of the Palace Theater’s projection rooms have made the conversion required by major motion-picture companies, a process that involves installing new wiring, digital projection equipment and industry-specific security.
Palace Theater owners Reg and Barbara Clark in Lake Placid invested $100,000 initially to convert the first two projection rooms, keeping current with demands from big movie producers.
“Two theaters are complete now, in Theater 1, the big one, and in Theater 2,” Jubin said.
Two more projection rooms need updates, and the community is very close to closing the last gap in an overhaul that is expected to cost about $285,000, start to finish.
Going into the holiday break, the Palace was still about $50,000 shy of its goal, Jubin said.
“Then, over the holidays, we got a very generous $25,000 donation from Bogle family; they own a camp on Lake Placid.”
That brought the Palace campaign very near its goal.
The Palace had also received a $20,000 match challenge contributed by the Burrows family, securing $40,000 toward digital conversion last fall.
And two community foundation grants of $10,000 apiece were awarded from the Jana Foundation and from the Uihlein Foundation, in the spirit of Henry E. Uihlein.
Uihlein was vice president of the Adirondack Theater Corporation, the board that founded the Palace Theater, years ago.
Altogether, prospects for digital conversion at the Palace look bright in 2014.
“We’re in the final push now. We’re so close. That’s why we’re calling it the Last Push for the Palace,” Jubin said.
Staff at the Adirondack North Country Association has been front and center in raising awareness and funds for area movie theaters, coordinating grant applications and gathering donations for 10 independently owned movie houses.
ANCA is building new online donation pages for each small theater, still looking to close the digital divide.
The Hollywood Theater in AuSable Forks and the Strand Theater in Schroon Lake each won $70,000 in economic-development funding. The Strand Theatre in Plattsburgh was allocated $78,000. The Indian Lake Theater is getting $17,000 to train a digital movie technician, though digital equipment was installed there last summer.
Those awards are 50 percent matching grants, Jubin explained.
Resources are still needed to complete digital conversion in each of those projection rooms.
While communities rally steadily around their independent movie houses, the movie industry is settling into the digital age. The new technology has been in use since 2012, and slowly, costs are coming down.
“Every day, conversion costs are dropping a little bit,” Jubin said. “Since the equipment has been in operation for over a year, producers and everyone are starting to work together.”
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HOW TO HELP
Area businesses looking to take part in the Mirror Lake Inn Challenge or the Push for the Palace Theater in Lake Placid can contact Jennifer Jubin via email at email@example.com or by phone at 891-6200.
Updates on digital-conversion progress at each theater are posted on the Adirondack North Country Association's website at: adirondack.org/GoDigital/