New technology has caused change before. But locally, it is on the verge of taking away one of Main Street Lake Placid's most cherished places - The Palace Theatre. But the Palace isn't the only movie theatre in the region about to be lost to technology - ones in AuSable Forks, Old Forge and Tupper Lake may also be forced to shut down. But it doens't have to happen - this story can have a happy ending.
The end for small movie theaters such as those mentioned, stems from film industry's decision to switch distributing first-run features from 35 mm to digital projectors, which on average costs $100,000 to switch. The Palace has four screens ($400,000), the Hollywood in AuSable Forks has two ($200,000), the State in Tupper Lake has two ($200,000) and the Strand in Old Forge has four screens ($400,000). A cost factor far too steep for the owners of small theaters. The bigger multiplex theaters don't have to worry about getting the money.
For those who do not want to lose the Palace Theatre, now is the time to step up and support them. Otherwise, they're likely to go away later this year.
Starting in the fall, the movie industry plans to cease production of movie prints on film and only release new movies digitally. Those who do not make the technological change will be left in the dark.
Most of the nation's movie theaters, owned by huge chains, have already been converted to digital projection.
Here in the North Country movie houses are owned and run by local families. Furthermore, they're still located in the same great-looking buildings where they always were, which represent the golden age of Hollywood. Plus, the local movie theaters are still downtown and draw people who might patronize other local businesses. Losing them would hurt local economies.
On top of all that, local theaters have been affordable. Most American adults pay $10 or more to see a movie on the big screen, and even the smallest soda and popcorn can cost $9. (At Plattsburgh's Cumberland 12 Cinemas, ordering a small popcorn and soda cost $9.50.) At the Palace in Lake Placid, an adult movie ticket costs $7 and a small popcorn $1. At the Hollywood Theater in AuSable Forks, a movie costs $6.
The cost to convert to digital projectio is said to cost between $50,000 and $100,000 per screen. Local theater owners can't afford that price on their own, and an effort to get state grants for this cause failed, which is as it should be. Tax dollars should not be used to bail out an industry challenged by the march of time and technology.
Voluntary contributions, however, are appropriate and, in this case, badly needed.
A regional fundraising campaign called "Go Digital or Go Dark" has begun, organized by the Adirondack North Country Association and the Adirondack Film Society. Ten theaters are participating: The Palace, the State, the Hollywood, three called the Strand - in Old Forge, Schroon Lake and Plattsburgh - the Indian Lake Theater, the Ogdensburg Cinema, the Glen Drive-In in Queensbury and the Cinemateque in South Glens Falls.
It's easy to donate. You can mail a check to ANCA, 67 Main St., Saranac Lake, NY 12983, or give online via Razoo, a fundraising site similar to the better-known Kickstarter. Go to www.adirondack.org/GoDigital, click on which theater you want to give to, and follow the directions.
Filmmaker Aaron Woolf, who made the 2007 farm industry documentary "King Corn," and Lake Placid's own T.J. Brearton (of film production company Adk Mogul) have produced a trailer to promote the campaign that debuted at a kick-off event Friday at the Palace Theatre.
ANCA is still pursuing low- or zero-interest public "bridge loans" through Empire State Development to help get theaters through the quick transition to digital. Nevertheless, since the state opted not to pay for it through the Regional Economic Development Council process, ANCA is trying to get the whole thing funded with donations.
"We're trying to recast this as a grassroots effort," according to ANCA Communications Specialist Melissa Hart.
Now it is a casting call to all those who appreciate small-town movie theatres - whether you are a local or a visitor who loves making a stop at our special Main Street movie theatre. Please help save these cinemas so people can see new movies on the big screen for many years to come.