by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor
Say goodbye to the crackle and pop of celluloid movies.
Just as surely as 50-cent popcorn is a part of cinematic history, films on reels are soon to be archaic.
The 35-millimeter (mm) bridge between distribution and exhibition is about to collapse as changes in technology for distributing new motion picture releases are requiring theaters to acquire digital projection systems in order to remain first run.
Members of the National Association of Theatre Owners believe 20 percent of all theaters in North America will disappear. Included in that statistic is the Rogers City movie house.
Owner Karl Heidemann, who celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Rogers City Theater a year ago, knew this day was coming.
“I already cannot receive 35-mm trailers for some of the previews from some companies,” said Heidemann. “For example, 20th Century Fox only issues trailers in a digital format now.”
He added that Fox will stop distributing films altogether by the end of the year.
“That is pretty much the way the country is going,” he added. “That’s a good move for Hollywood, they will save tons of money. It is very expensive to produce 35-millimeter film.”
It is not good for local movie palaces.
Heidemann said many neighborhood theaters already have gone out of business, or will at the end of the year.
“Whether we’re one of those or not, depends upon whether people really want a movie theater in Rogers City,” said Heidemann. “I wanted one 10 years ago when I bought the theater. It was going to shut at that time, and I have kept it open for 10 years. I have to be honest, it is a hobby. I love it. I love movies, I love what I am doing. Every hobby has a limit.”
Heidemann said he has invested more than $300,000 into upgrading equipment and the building.
“Is my hobby worth another $100,000,” he said. “First of all, I don’t have another $100,000. Everything is in here already. I’ve already drained all of my retirement accounts.”
Enter Rachel Goodstein, a Chicago attorney, who has become a mover and a shaker in Presque Isle County in only a short period of time. She is spearheading a “Kickstarter” campaign to fund a new digital projector and the accompanying equipment.
“The exact target figure is still being determined,” said Goodstein
The projector costs around $75,000 and usually requires additional expenses related to installation. Heidemann believes it will be closer to $100,000.
Kickstarter, which was launched in 2009, is an Internet based system for raising funds through social media for creative projects. It usually includes a video, “and one for the Rogers City Theater is currently in pre-production. Many indepenedent theaters located in small cities have successfully used Kickstarter to raise funds for this purpose. It seems to work, even though it is a lot of money.”
The target date for launching the campaign is Aug. 3, the night of the concert at the theater during the Nautical Festival. The campaign is expected to run for two months.
“People who make contributions to Kickstarter have to receive something for it,” said Goodstein. “We are still working on that.”
If the goal amount is not reached, the funds are returned or the pledges won’t be collected.
“There is no doubt in my mind, in 2014, there will be no films available,” said Heidemann.
So, 2014 could usher in a new era. “If not, we will do other stuff,” said Heidemann. “We will still do DVDs and live stuff. We might even do more live stuff.”
People willing to share a personal story on what the theater has meant to them for use in the campaign should contact Goodstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or 989-351-9013.