Film is dying. Around the country, small town, independently owned theaters in are being fazed out of the marketplace by the film industry’s switch from 35-millimeter film distribution to a new digital age.
Not unlike Blu-Ray players replacing DVDs as the highest resolution quality for television entertainment at home, digital projectors have made film obsolete. Studios have diminished their film production of new movies and distribution rapidly over the past few years, and are expected to eliminate new film altogether by the end of the year, with most first-run movies switching to digital by the end of August.
Small town theaters have been given a sink-or-swim ultimatum, and, unfortunately, the majority of them are sinking. A group of well-to-do actors has been active in trying to donate or raise money to assist theaters in transferring to digital, which is a costly expense upwards of $55,000, but their grasp has yet to reach their goal.
Few community theaters have received money to stay alive, but there simply hasn’t been enough to go around. According to John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, 78 percent of the nation’s movie auditoriums have transitioned to digital projectors.
Lakeview’s Alger Theater is not immune to this pandemic. Susan Samples, wife to Kevin Samples and owners/operators of both Burger Queen and Alger, fears that the sun might finally be setting on the theater. The Samples have owned it for almost 20 years. They have yet to report a financial loss after every fiscal year, except for 2013. Susan stated that this year they have had to take money from Burger Queen to compensate for their losses at Alger.
There are multiple contributing factors. Since studios are mostly distributing to digital projector-run theaters now, 35 millimeter film is being limited. Thus, theaters with bigger audiences get
first dibs on the film, and smaller theaters like Alger get left out in the cold.