Crandell Theatre Looks Ahead to Digital Future

September 5, 2012

Coming quickly down the road is a huge change in the movie-making world: soon all movies will be produced in digital format rather than 35 millimeter film. Joining theaters around the country, the Crandell Theatre is making plans to meet this enormous challenge.

The movie industry has been working toward the change for some time. The reason is financial: it is much cheaper to make and distribute digital prints of movies vs. film prints.  But while it is cheaper for the studios and distributors, it is much more expensive, at least initially, for the theaters themselves.

One of the few surviving single screen theaters in the Northeast, the Crandell Theatre has shown movies on 35mm film projectors for over 75 years. By the end of 2013, all major new releases will be available only in Digital Cinema format (and not on film).  These releases will require industry-compliant equipment, unlike less expensive digital projectors that show digital content at lower resolution.

“So, if we want to show movies comparable to The Hunger Games, The Artist, and Men in Black 4, we’ll have to show them on a Digital Cinema projector,” says Sandi Knakal, director of the Chatham Film Club, which purchased the Crandell in 2010. “Theaters must comply or they will be forced to close their doors.”

But the Crandell is not alone. A member of the Art House Convergence (a consortium of 100+ independent theaters), the film club has been talking with its peers for over a year about how to proceed.

The main challenge of Digital Cinema is the expense. Purchase and installation of a Digital Cinema projector will cost over $100,000. Additional expenses of a new sound system, a new screen, and expansion of the projection booth bring the total needed to $250,000. All of these steps mean identifying and hiring experienced professionals to do the work.

For those mourning the loss of 35mm film, there is good news. The Crandell will keep its two 35mm film projectors to use for special screenings and to show archival prints and classic movies.

Even better news is that Digital Cinema offers an amazingly sharp and bright picture, according to Sandi Knakal. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the beauty, depth, and clarity of movies projected on the latest Digital Cinema projectors. We think that this is a step forward into the future of visual presentation. Plus, many older, classic films are gaining new life after being digitally restored.”

The film club plans to install a Digital Cinema projector by the end of 2013 without any interruption of the theater’s nightly shows. For more information and to support the Digital Cinema fundraising campaign, call 392-3459 or go to www.thechathamfilmclub.org or www.crandelltheatre.org.