Service Industry

Digital progress at movie theaters

By: KIM SMITH DEDAM

SARANAC LAKE — With the State Theatre in Tupper Lake’s recent success in moving to digital-movie access, others are still waiting in the wings.

At the Adirondack North Country Association, communications specialist Melissa Hart relayed marked progress on two fronts.

Communities have stepped up to help save their theaters, and the price of projection equipment is coming down for small movie houses.

The North Country Association launched its Go Digital or Go Dark campaign in conjunction with the Adirondack Film Society earlier this year.

“Of the 10 theaters we were supporting, three have now met their fundraising goals and gone digital: the State Theater in Tupper Lake, the Indian Lake Theater and the Glen Drive-in in Queensbury,” Hart said.

The Ogdensburg Theater closed for several reasons, she said.

“That leaves us with six theaters still actively in fundraising: the year-round theaters are the Palace Theater in Lake Placid, the Strand Theater in Old Forge and Cinematek in South Glens Falls.”

Seasonal theaters include the Hollywood in AuSable Forks and the Strand in Schroon Lake.

The Strand Theatre in Plattsburgh, which is still being developed, is also involved.

GRANTS SOUGHT

North Country Association has worked with partners for each venue, helping forge a series of dynamic relationships to support or enhance film options for each theater’s audio/visual programming.

“We just recently applied for three grants through the state Council of the Arts, which has a pool of money allocated specifically for digital programming. Each one of those grant applications was really unique.

“The Strand Theater in Plattsburgh is not currently equipped for movies,” Hart explained. “The grant would allow them to achieve that goal, giving them additional tools to put the programming in place for movies and expand for alternative programming using the projectors.”

Adirondack Film Society has been working with the theater in Schroon Lake to expand the Lake Placid Film Festival, developing a southern venue for film showings and roundtable discussion.

“This whole process has resulted in new partnerships emerging and people coming together,” Hart said.

DARK DEADLINE

But the deadline for the digital switch is coming. Movies will no longer be available in 35-millimeter prints. And big movie companies have set various deadlines for digital access.

“Some have just limited the number of film prints they have put out. But really, overall, we’re looking at the end of the year being critical,” Hart said.

“The Council on the Arts grant cycle deadline was Aug. 12. We met that, and we probably won’t hear about funding awards until December. Once we hear back, it will move fairly quickly.”

SMALLER SCREENS

Meantime, the Palace Theater in Lake Placid has installed one digital projector in its four showing rooms. One of the screens is in a fairly small room, Hart said.

“They are taking a phased-in approach. One of the recent developments in this process is that the costs have come down quite a bit for small theaters.

“(North Country Association) hired an independent consultant to do an evaluation for four of the movie theaters with the idea that the technology has been evolving over the past year.”

ANCA found that for smaller movie screens, there really weren’t digital projector models of proper size available.

“They have now created projectors for smaller theaters,” Hart said.

And it brought the equipment cost down significantly. It did not change the cost of wiring or projector booth renovation.

Schroon Lake’s digital investment was set at $60,000 originally, Hart relayed.

“The revised bid for a smaller projector came in at $38,000. Lake Placid’s Palace Theater conversion is set to cost about $150,000 for the three remaining screens.”

The Lake Placid Center for the Arts is pairing with the Palace to host a fundraiser on Thursday, Sept. 19.

“We are going to screen ‘Star Wars’ and have videotape gathering recollections of people’s first time seeing the movie. The storytelling starts at 6 p.m. with the movie showing at 7 p.m.,” Hart said.

The Hollywood Theater in AuSable Forks is working with the Tahawus Center and held a major fundraiser mid-August.

Old Forge held a gala event in July that raised $30,000 in one night, Hart said.

“It’s been amazing to see the communities rallying for their theaters.”

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com

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