Digital film switch daunts historic movie houses

By Carolyn Thompson

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Feb. 18 2012 10:55 a.m. MST

In this Jan. 19, 2012 photo, Arnie Herdendorf, the projectionist at the Palace Theatre in Lockport, N.Y., peeks out of the projection booth. With the movie industry's rapid switch to digital technology, Herdendorf worries how long his job will be around. The questions for the historic movie houses are even greater: Can they afford to survive the switch to digital?

Doug Benz, Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As the movie business rapidly makes the switch to digital technology, historic movie houses like the Palace Theatre in Buffalo, N.Y., are scrambling to raise funds to pay for the change.

Big-budget theaters can afford the $70,000 to $80,000 it takes to convert each screen.

But for the community-owned Palace and other small and historic movie houses, the merging of nostalgia with high-tech is a daunting and expensive proposition.

The survival of theaters is in question as motion pictures roll quickly toward an all-digital format that is played only on pricey new equipment. The digital revolution will soon render inadequate the projectors that have flickered and ticked with technology that has changed little in more than 120 years.

Across the country, the theaters are doing whatever they can to stay relevant.

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