October 7, 2012

Editorial: A big stake in local theaters

We’re pulling very hard for all the parties involved in trying to acquire funding to keep independent North Country movie theaters in business.

Technology, which impels so many improvements in our lives, can also doom certain established elements, which unfortunately happens to be the case with some local movie outlets.

For many people, life without movies is unthinkable. The local movie house fills a lot of holes in our comings and goings. Some local theaters are also the site of local shows, benefit events and and other offerings.

Families can attend movies together to cement relationships in an increasingly fragmenting society. Parents can also be sure that, if their kids are at the movies, they aren’t out on the streets getting into mischief.

But the local independent theaters, which offer so much to positively influence our quality of life, are in trouble because of technological advances. Films being distributed these days come in digital form, which is good for the distributors but bad for the theater owners who don’t have the needed equipment.

The long and the short of it is that each of the 13 theaters in the region that are affected by this upgrade are going to have to invest $100,000 to accommodate the change or perish.

Small businesses — particularly theaters, which are typically operating close to the margin to begin with — can’t be expected to pony up that kind of money just to stay even. The investment in digital doesn’t promise new profit levels. It merely enables the exhibitors to stay where they are.

If they were to accept money from distributors for the upgrades, they would be bound to show certain films. We value the independence of local theaters to make choices that might not match what major studios are pushing.

The theaters are banding together to increase their individual influence, as well as enlisting the endorsement and help of organizations with power and money. The Adirondack Film Society is acting as an umbrella for the 13 theaters and has summoned the aid of the North Country Economic Development Council, which hopes to again secure state money for a number of local projects.

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