By CRISTINE MEIXNER
INDIAN LAKE - Independent theaters will be closing their doors within a few months unless they can come up with up to $100,000 per screen to switch from film to digital projectors.
The non-profit Indian Lake Theater is among those affected, as is The Strand of Old Forge and The State in Tupper Lake. The Tamarack in Inlet closed for good last fall.
The movie industry will save money by distributing new releases digitally, rather than shipping 35mm reels, but theaters have to install new projectors, screens, sound systems and wiring to keep their doors open. The change is expected by late fall.
That's where "Go Digital or Go Dark" comes in.
The Adirondack North Country Association, the Adirondack Film Society and the State of New York are collaborating with 10 North Country theaters to make sure the theaters don't go dark.
"The loss of our local theaters would be a major economic and cultural blow to our Adirondack communities," film society Chairman John Huttlinger says. "Our towns depend on their theaters to provide entertainment. This campaign is a one-time effort to help the theaters upgrade their equipment."
Conversion costs are expected to be about $70,000 for the 250-seat Indian Lake Theater and $275,000 for The Strand, which has four screens.
Go Digital or Go Dark kicked off Friday at the Palace Theater in Lake Placid. The campaign hopes to raise at least 25 percent of the money each of the 10 theaters needs to upgrade.
Participating theaters within the Adirondack Park are Indian Lake Theater, The Strand in Old Forge and The Palace in Lake Placid, all year-round; and The State in Tupper Lake, The Strand in Schroon Lake and The Hollywood in Au Sable Forks, which are all seasonal.
These six theaters are the only ones left within the Blue Line.
Other participating North Country theaters are Queensbury's The Glen Drive In, Cinematheque in S. Glens Falls, Ogdensburg Cinema in Ogdensburg and The Strand in Plattsburgh.
ANCA is working with each theater to help coordinate a community-based campaign as well as outreach to major donors. Funds will be turned over to Adirondack Film Society to administer grants to each participating theater.
Readers can help by making a tax-deductible donation to their theater of choice or to the general fund administered by ANCA at 67 Main St., Saranac Lake NY 12983. Indicate the theater and community being gifted on the check.
GOING FOR GRANTS
NYS is involved through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council, which made saving North Country movie theaters a priority in its 2012 progress report.
Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury) has been working with Empire State Development and the North Country RED-C to establish a low-interest loan program for digital conversion.
Naj Wikoff of Keene Valley, a co-founder of the Lake Placid Film Forum, told the Plattsburgh Press Republican if theaters across the North Country close it would mean a loss of 120 jobs, $11.4 million spent in community restaurants and other local businesses by theatergoers and $800,000 in local tax revenue. Important community centers and affordable entertainment would also be lost.
Wikoff is attempting to get grant funding of about $80,000 a screen to buy the digital equipment, reporter Lohr McKinstry wrote.
Small town theaters have for generations provided a comfortable, affordable and friendly place for folks of all ages to meet and be entertained. Several have reopened in recent years.
If they can survive the conversion to digital, they might continue for generations to come. If they cannot, their screens will go dark by the end of the year.
More information on the campaign and ways give a tax-deductible contribution can be found at www.adirondack.org/GoDigital.