LAKE PLACID — A real red carpet will be rolled out for the Go Digital or Go Dark World Premiere at the Palace Theatre here tonight.
“We’re really glamming it up,” said Melissa Hart, communications specialist for Adirondack North Country Association.
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Velvet ropes, champagne and classy dress will put the independent movie house in the spotlight even as the Go Digital or Go Dark campaign gets the word out that the Palace and other North Country theaters may go dark if they can’t raise enough money to buy digital equipment.
As of this fall, most major motion pictures will no longer be produced in 35mm format. And the cost to go digital is about $100,000 per screen.
“(But) community groups, businesses and individuals across the region have stepped up to make sure our theaters don’t go dark,” says a press release from the North Country Association.
The premiere, set for 5 p.m., will screen a trailer introducing the campaign, which aims to raise money for those vital modifications.
Independent filmmaker Aaron Woolf of New York City, whose documentaries include “King Corn,” volunteered to produce the trailer. He collaborated with TJ Brearton, who works for the Adirondack Film Society and has his own production company, Adk Mogul.
“Tim kind of rounded up all the actors and some of the crew,” Hart said, “and they shot it over Presidents’ Day Weekend.”
The trailer, which boasts professional editing and sound, she said, will be screened at all 10 theaters involved with the campaign, headed by the North Country Association and the Adirondack Film Society.
Along with the Palace, they are the Hollywood, AuSable Forks; the Strand, Plattsburgh; the State, Tupper Lake; the Strand, Schroon Lake; the Ogdensburg Cinema, Ogdensburg; the Glen Drive In, Queensbury; the Cinematheque, South Glens Falls, the Strand, Old Forge; and Indian Lake Theater, Indian Lake.
SENSE OF URGENCY
Supporters of the effort have tried various avenues to acquire funding for the theaters.
An effort to win grant funding for theater conversion from Empire State Development Corp. was unsuccessful, Hart said.
But some of the movie houses are thinking of applying for loans at no or low interest so they can get digital equipment installed as soon as possible, in hopes the fundraising will help repay the cost.
Time is of the essence, Hart said, as most movies won’t be available in 35mm soon.
“We’re trying to get that sense of urgency out there.”
Buying the equipment all at once for the 10 theaters would bring a small discount, Hart said.
But otherwise, the association is working with each theater to help coordinate a community-based campaign and also to reach out to major donors.
The Film Society will administer grants to the theaters at the campaign’s end; the goal is to have their equipment upgraded sometime this summer.
“Our small-town theaters are vital to keeping rural downtowns dynamic,” North Country Association Executive Director Kate Fish said in the release.
The campaign, she said, aims “to ensure that these theaters remain a special part of our small-town quality of life.”
Movie studios have offered funds to help independent movie houses upgrade but, in return, Hart said, they would have say in what is shown there.
“It’s an issue of maintaining independence,” she said.
Much of what makes little theaters vital to communities, she said, is the offerings they have beyond showing the latest film.
The Lake Placid Film Forum, set this year for June 13, 14 and 15, is one example, Hart said, as are student productions and independent films.
The State Theater in Tupper Lake has been there almost a century now.
“The small businesses on our main street depend on one another for survival, and the theater draws many people to the area,” Sally Strasser, who owns the movie house, said in the release.
“It is my dream and my privilege to be able to run this unique piece of local history, and I’m grateful for the support that would allow me keep it alive.”
“The loss of our local theaters would be a major economic and cultural blow to our Adirondack communities,” Film Society Chair John Huttlinger said.
“This campaign is a one-time effort to help the theaters upgrade their equipment,” he emphasized.
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IF YOU GO
The kickoff to the Go Digital or Go Dark campaign is set for 5 to 6:15 p.m. today at the Palace Theatre, 2430 Main St., Lake Placid.
Dress up for the red-carpet event, organizers say. The event is free. Free refreshments are donated by Hannaford Superstore, champagne by Swedish Hill Winery, the red carpet and other items from Placid Productions.
The campaign launch is supported by Adirondack Bank and Community Bank. Many more fundraisers, to be announced, will go on through the summer. Donations are tax-deductible and can be made to a specific theater or to the project as a whole.
To learn more or make a contribution, go to www.adirondack.org/GoDigital or pick up donation forms at any of the participating theaters.