Mandatory Conversion To Digital Projectors

Have you been to the Coulee Dam’s Village Cinema in Washington?Speciaty Bulb - DLP Projection Lamps - July 2013largest

You may have not heard of this cinema at all. It has never exuded a romantic allure of a typical small-town movie theater. The theater does not have a marquee that would even indicate that it is a movie house. For many years, there’s only one movie screening every week which, for the few thousand residents in nearby small towns is the most convenient way to get to see a first-run movie. Catching a movie at the Village Cinema to many local residents is a great way to pass a Sunday afternoon.

Conversion to Digital Projectors

This may have to change soon as an industry-mandated conversion to digital projectors will be implemented by the end of the year. And such regulation will make it nearly impossible for those small one- or two-screen theaters in isolated towns across the country to continue to operate.

projectorBenefits of Digital Conversion

Digital projectors were first installed at movie theaters about a dozen years ago. As of 2004, there were only 90 digital movie screens accounted for in all of North America. The transition to digital is imminent for movie studios. The quality of picture generated and projected is generally clearer and sharper. A more significant reason is the radically lower financial and logistical costs of distribution.

Low Digital Consumable Costs

The economic advantage points to the cost of a single copy of 35mm feature film which on the average costs the studios at least $1,500 as opposed to the copies on digital drives running at just about a tenth of that amount. Theater owners will only have to deal with the costs of digital consumables such as dlp projection lamps, digital drives, among others which take a long time before replacements are necessitated. And in the not so distant future, satellite transmission could make it hassle-free and less troublesome to get first-run films to theaters across the globe.

High Cost of Converting to Digital Projectors

While these costs are manageable for newer theaters that have already been designed towards digital age, small theater owners will have to allocate a fortune for the conversion. The estimated costs to convert to digital projectors and sound system can easily run above $50,000 per screen. This amount of money may be easy to scoop up for some theater owners but most small-town theaters like Village Cinema only cater to a small customer base and thus, don’t bring in enough ticket revenues to make even the most generous of the available loan schemes facilitated for the mandatory conversion.

The Future of Small Town TheatersSpecialty Bulb - DLP Projection Lamps - August 2013BellevueT

From the records held by the Motion Picture Association of America, as of 2012, 84 percent of the movie theaters in the United States were digital. By winter this year, it will be difficult for small town theaters to find first-run films from major studios on 35mm as everything will be on digital copies. In other words, small town theaters will have to settle for old or independent films which are not likely to bring enough ticket revenues to remain profitable.

This would leave Village Cinema and many other small theaters across the country scrounging for funds through fundraising, crowdsourcing, solicitation, etc., or if these efforts failed, cease operations.


Do you have a small theater in your area?