feat_digital1_main
SIZE MATTERS The three plastic cases on the left each contain a digital feature film. The two metal
cans on the right together hold a single feature-length film (one can with four reels and the other with
three). A hard drive is atop the left pile for scale. ‘Our UPS driver loves that we’ve converted to digital,’
says Railroad Square’s Alan Sanborn.

The horror film regional drive-ins and arthouse cinemas have been dreading for the past five years would be best titled The Reckoning. In it, a shadowy cabal of film distributors and studios announce that they will cease distributing bulky, analog, 35-millimeter film prints at some vague but impending point in time. With as little as a few days’ notice, prints fail to show up at a theater’s doorstep, forcing schedule changes, audience dissatisfaction, and a palpable hit to the weekend’s expected business. The only way out of the impasse is to pony up, at minimum, $50,000 to upgrade to a digital projection system.

“It’s been an absolute nightmare,” says Ry Russell, manager of the Saco Drive-In, of a tense summer. “Typically what we’ve been able to do was submit a request for what the movies were that we wanted to play, and three days before they showed up at the door. This year we were putting in requests months in advance, and two to three days before, nothing shows up. They just release such a small quantity of each movie on film, and they’d send them to the theaters where they’d make the most money.”

Russell’s experience booking summer tentpoles was similar to that of arthouse proprietor Barry Norman, who runs the great Eveningstar Cinema in Brunswick. “As 35mm is being eliminated by the end of this year, it was getting harder to get film prints as distributors, especially the smaller ones, made less and less prints. Often, I couldn’t get a print due to the reduction in the number made and where Brunswick, Maine would be on the ladder,” he says.

Both theaters have had to deal with undesirable circumstances over the past year, being forced to hold over certain films regardless of their popularity. As Russell put it, “Honestly, what we ended up doing was picking crappier movies . . . We literally had to pick up junk movies in order to get that turn that we wanted. Getting a junk movie was probably 2.5 percent better than playing a movie we already played.”

The good news is that, for most Maine arthouses and drive-ins, this scary movie seems to be ending well: the Saco Drive-In was the only theater in New England to win a Honda-sponsored contest to provide drive-ins with free digital upgrades; in the immediate area, only Westbrook’s Prides Corner Drive-In has yet to announce concrete plans for a digital upgrade, and owner Andrew Tevanian will be seeking a bank loan to assist the transition. In April, the Eveningstar borrowed money to pay a reported $55,000 for a digital projection system; just last month Russell finished raising $46,000 in a crowdfunding campaign to help cover that debt.

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |   next >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY CHRISTOPHER GRAY
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   GIRLS (AND BOYS) ON FILM  |  July 11, 2014
    The Maine International Film Festival, now in its 17th year in Waterville, remains one of the region’s more ambitious cultural institutions, less bound by a singular ambition than a desire to convey the breadth and depth of cinema’s past and present. (This, and a healthy dose of music and human-interest documentaries.) On that account, MIFF ’14 is an impressive achievement, offering area filmgoers its best program in years. With so much to survey, let’s make haste with the recommendations. (Particularly emphatic suggestions are marked in bold print.)  
  •   AMERICAN VALUES  |  June 11, 2014
    The Immigrant  seamlessly folds elements of New York history and the American promise into a story about the varieties of captivity and loyalty.
  •   CHARACTER IS POLITICAL  |  April 10, 2014
    Kelly Reichardt, one of the most admired and resourceful voices in American independent cinema, appears at the Portland Museum of Art Friday night to participate in a weekend-long retrospective of her three most recent films.
  •   LET'S TALK ABOUT SEX  |  April 09, 2014
    Throughout its two volumes and four hours of explicit sexuality, masochism, philosophical debate, and self-analysis, Nymphomaniac remains the steadfast vision of a director talking to himself, and assuming you’ll be interested enough in him to listen and pay close attention.
  •   ASHES AND DIORAMAS  |  March 28, 2014
    History, rather than ennui, is the incursion that motivates this, his most antic and most somber work.

 See all articles by: CHRISTOPHER GRAY