Will we be able to call movies "films" much longer? Although the term will probably endure, it looks like it will soon become an anachronism.
Most movie theaters around the U.S. have already switched over to digital projection systems. Those that still show movies on celluloid film - including our local, independently owned ones in Tupper Lake, Lake Placid and AuSable Forks - have little more than a year to convert, because in December 2013 the industry will stop the expensive process of making film prints of movies.
The cost of the conversion is estimated at $80,000 to $100,000 per screening room, which local theater owners say they simply cannot afford.
But if they don't, they must stop playing new movies, and no one wants that.
So we applaud 13 independently owned North Country movie theaters for teaming up to figure a way for them to get through this crisis.
But we're not thrilled about the solution they're pursuing - state funding.
The theater owners and the Lake Placid-based Adirondack Film Society have enlisted the help of Keene Valley grant writer Naj Wikoff to prepare and submit a consolidated funding application to the state. The total cost of converting 37 movie screens at the 13 theaters is estimated at about $2.9 million. The applicants are seeking about $2.18 million in Empire State Development funds, and the remaining $727,000 or so would come from the theaters and other sources.
We'd like to see a lot more of the conversion costs come from North Country movie customers and the theaters themselves. It might be a combination of loans, higher ticket prices and local donations. North Country folks are really good at fundraising, and they love movies, so they'll rally and also pay a little extra at the gate.
Changes in technology happen in most industries; they're part of the cost of doing business. The government didn't buy every workplace computers to replace typewriters in the 1980s. Newspapers didn't get public funds to leave film cameras and hot-lead typesetting behind. Did the movie theaters that made the digital switch early do it with grants? We doubt it.
It doesn't seem appropriate, right off the bat without trying any alternatives, to ask taxpayers across New York to cover 75 percent of the cost of converting our movie theaters - especially when most of those taxpayers pay more than we do to go to the cinema.
We love movies, and we especially love seeing them at the Palace in Lake Placid, the State in Tupper Lake and the Hollywood in AuSable Forks. We dearly want them to stick around for a long time. But how about a more grassroots plan to save them?