Everyone likes to get away for a while, to escape their worries and the daily grind and escape, even if it is just for a couple of hours.
One of the best ways to do that is by going to the movies, where audiences are taken on an adventure, made to laugh or cry, and even given a chance to think.
Don’t believe us? Then let’s look at the numbers. The top three grossing movies of 2011 (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II,” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”) made $947.5 million.
However, people throughout the North Country may soon lose their access to Hollywood, and it will be Hollywood’s fault.
You see, by the end of next year, every motion picture studio will be making the change-over to 100-percent digital distribution. Your children will soon view 35mm film in the same way they view dial-up internet connections, phones with cords, floppy disks and cell phones you could not text on.
So how are the movie companies helping theaters out? In the case of several small, independently owned local establishments, they are not. Their message is loud and clear: either pay an average of $100,000 per screen to convert to digital or find yourself as extinct as the featured characters in “Jurassic Park.”
Another option is to lease the digital equipment from the movie companies. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Any theater that entered into a lease would be under the control of, “the man,” only being able to show the movies given to them by the companies. For places like the Palace Theater in Lake Placid, the Hollywood in Au Sable Forks or the Strand in Schroon Lake, this would mean all of the special shows that they put on during the holidays or to support local volunteers would go out the window.
The cold truth is, why would the movie companies care about these three theatres, when they only have seven screens total ? (Palace - 4, Hollywood - 2, Strand - 1) Why would they care about the one-screen State Theater in Tupper Lake, the one-screen Strand in Plattsburgh, the single screen at the Indian Lake Theater, or the two screens at the Glen Drive-In of Queensbury? That’s a grand total of 12 screens.
Think about that. In the entirety of the Adirondack Park, there are only nine movie screens (the Glen and Plattsburgh Strand are located outside the Blue Line). Why would big movie companies care about these theaters when there are 21 screens between the Cumberland 12 and Regal Cinemas 8?
While Cumberland is an independent multiplex, Regal Cinemas at Champlain Centre also has the backing of 6,463 screens in 555 locations across the United States. Again, why would big companies care about nine screens in an area the size of several states when they have all of these others? Another case of the little man getting stepped on.
And if you are thinking that this is no big deal, here’s some data for you. According to a study done by the Adirondack Film Society, the local Adirondack movie screens attract over $11 million in spending to the region each year. That is almost $1.3 million in estimated sales tax revenue (state and local) that is desperately needed by the communities and counties that make up the park. That is another big hit when you add the fact that another big man—the state—is keeping the little man down with a two-percent tax cap.
These theaters need to survive. They need the help of the state and their local communities, or they are going to be gone forever. We urge the North Country Regional Economic Development Council to do all that they can to provide funding so these theaters can purchase their own digital projectors and screens so they can continue to provide entertainment to their communities. We note that it is also alarming that during a press conference last week, those who have been seeking grant funds for this undertaking said that they were refused entrance into the NCREDC funding pool because they were, “five minutes late,” in submitting their application. We thought the NCREDC was here to work with local businesses, not add more red tape to their plight.
Luckily, the group was able to get in an application for a consolidated grant directly to the state, which we feel must be approved.
If not, this could be the biggest cliffhanger ever seen for these local theaters, with no hopes of a sequel.