Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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North Country movie theaters face tough ultimatum

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: North Country movie theaters face tough ultimatum
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The time is fast approaching when movie distributors will no longer send film to local movie theaters, only digital copies. This gives movie theaters the ultimatum of going digital or going dark. As our Barry Wygel tells us, small movie theaters are feeling the pinch as they struggle to find the money they need.

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Reg and Barbara Clark have been operating the Palace Theater in Lake Placid since 1961, but without major help, that could soon come to an end.

"Our goal is $210,000," said Barbara Clark, who owns the Palace Theater with her husband.

The Clarks, and all movie theaters, have been given the ultimatum of going digital or going dark. Soon, the film canisters that have been shipped to the movie theaters since its inception will stop and unless the theaters buy all new equipment, they will be out of business.

"We've done one screen. It cost us $70,000," said Clark.

A number of local groups have stepped up to help out, including the Adirondack North Country Association, which is spearheading efforts to keep North Country movie theaters open.

"They're kind of involved in a coalition of theater owners across the Adirondack region that got together to tackle the project and the problem head on," said Melissa Hart, communications specialist at the Adirondack North Country Association.

Hart says the work fits with ANCA's mission because the loss of a movie theater can sometimes decimate a small town's economy.

"It just kind of serves as that downtown gathering place in a lot of small towns," said Hart.

"The children come here on their date nights. They come here for school projects," said Clark.

But even with a looming deadline quickly approaching and the money not coming in as fast as they would like, the Clarks remain hopeful that their goal will be met.

"I think you have to be hopeful, but you wonder if it will," said Clark.

"We're worried," added Reg.

The Clarks say they cannot raise ticket prices to help offset the costs, because movie theaters pay a percentage of ticket revenue to the movie distributors, so raising the cost of the ticket would help the distributor more than it would help them.

"Now, it's do or die. We really have to get some information out there that will encourage us, because we are not very encouraged right now," said Clark.

A number of other local theaters have already closed or been sold rather than making the costly transition.

The Lake Placid Center for the Arts and other community groups are hosting a fundraiser for The Palace Theater on September 19th. For more information on this event and the digital transition, you can visit www.adirondack.org/GoDigital.

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