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ON THE SCENE: The fight to save the Palace Theatre kicks into gear

May 7, 2013
NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

One of my early memories of going to the Palace is having been really frightened watching the "Wizard of Oz" when Dorothy's house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East and crushed her, as well as being unnerved by the Wicked Witch of the West's flying monkeys. The then owner, Mr. Dodds, took me into the projection booth so that I could understand it was a movie - that what I was watching were images projected on a screen. He enabled me to enjoy the experience without getting overwhelmed by it - he let me know that when I saw a movie I was participating in a bit of magic.

The tradition of carrying for their customers has been continued by current owners Reg and Barbara Clark and is replicated in all the independent movies theatres across the Adirondack Park. The owners of the theatres such as the Hollywood in Ausable Forks, the Strand in Old Forge and the State Theatre in Tupper Lake care for their customers. They treat them as people and know many of them as friends.

These theaters, 10 in all, are at risk of closing within six months if they are not able to convert their celluloid projectors to digital as after September the studios who make features and documentaries will no longer be printing and shipping them as film. Indeed, many first-run movies are not now available on film. The cost of converting is not cheap, it can be as much as $100,000 per screen, a conversion that requires not only a new digital projector, but a new sound system and a new screen - a cost that none of the aforementioned theatres can afford.

Article Photos

Naj Wikoff/Lake Placid News
Val Rogers, Debbie Kent, Sharon Summers. Erin Perkins and Kathy Pfohl at the Palace Theatre April 26 for the Go Digital or Go Dark event.

Their predicament came to light and was publically discussed at last year's Lake Placid Film Forum, sponsored by the Adirondack Film Society. The outcome is that the theatres have banded together under the auspices of the Film Society and the Adirondack North Country Association in a collective effort to raise the necessary funds to convert to digital. ANCA agreed to take the lead in organizing the funding campaign using social media crowd-funding through Razoo, an online tool for supporting causes.

On Friday evening, a trailer that will be used by all the theatres to help promote the campaign, was premiered at the Palace Theatre. The trailer was developed by TJ Brearton of the Film Society and director Aaron Woolf, known for his award-winning documentary "King Corn," and staring local actors Margarete Schulte, as the damsel in distress, and Lucky Cerruti, as Big Foot aka Chewbacca. The trailer was a big hit with the more than 200 people in attendance, and stimulated a lively number of stories by members of the audience as to their most memorable moments at the Palace.

"I grew up on Main Street right across from the Hollywood Theatre," said Jay Town Supervisor and Essex County Chair Randy Douglas. "I feel there are two staples to our community - the school and the (movie) theatre. Renovating and reopening the Hollywood was a major part of our community redevelopment plan. A lot of money and a big volunteer effort went into reopening it a few years ago and to know that all that might be lost because of being forced to shift to digital or close is heartbreaking."

"Our goal is to raise enough money to help each local North Country movie theatre convert to digital," said Kate Fish, executive director of ANCA. "We can't imagine Lake Placid without the Palace. We can't imagine any of the ten communities thriving without their theatres. People may contribute to the overall campaign or to just one or more theatres. Our goal is to raise individual contribution through our website - - through seeking several major lead gifts and through low interest loans provided by Empire State Development."

"My uncle Luke was the love of my life," said Erin Perkins. "I remember when I was 6 or 7 years old and my uncle brought all six of us to see a movie at the Palace. I remember sitting on his lap and eating popcorn. I never forgot that moment - and I did make out with boys all through high school in this theatre."

"I wish I had my first date at the Palace," said Aaron Woolf, who directed the trailer, "but I did see "Star Wars" here in 1977. I think one reason I became a filmmaker is because I was blown away by that experience."

"I mowed lawns for Ruth and George Hart and when not doing that I showed matinees here at the Palace," said Jamie Rogers. "I think I started when I was 14 or 15. It was my very first job. I would carry the film creates up to the projection booths and load the film into the projectors. The film had to be spliced together with glue and placed on the large disks. The best part of the job is that I got all the day-old popcorn."

"I was less than 2 years old when I first saw a movie at the Palace," said Ben Cross. "This was before my father came home from the war. My mother brought me here. It was an Abbot and Costello film. All I remember is that they were in a large cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites and they were sliding down a chute. I also had my first date at the Palace. I think that was in 1959."

"When I first worked at the Palace, Mr. Dodds was here of course," said Reg Clark. "When I arrived it was just after seven. He said, 'You are a little late.' I said, 'Only by a minute.' And he said, 'How would you like to be hung by your neck for a minute?' I was never late again."

The theatres are important economic and social engines of their communities. They provide many young people their first jobs and part time employment for others while stimulating business for local merchants such as restaurants and taverns. They also provide affordable entertainment for families. If they fail to meet the challenge of switching to digital, a night at the movies could mean a long drive to Plattsburgh, Glens Falls or Syracuse for Adirondackers. Their and our choice is to go digital or go dark.



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