technology --> Oct. 18--This marks the end of an era, says Pablo Kjolseth.
As he drove back to Boulder from the Telluride Film Festival -- where fewer than 10 movies at the four-day film feast were actual film, not digital -- he noticed a sign out front of the small movie theater in Salida.
Lucky for Kjolseth, his own theater in Boulder was able to dodge a similar fate, after a mega-fundraising campaign collected more than $50,000 just in time to bring a new digital projection system to the International Film Series this fall.
Kjolseth is the director of the series, which shows an eclectic mix of films -- including restored 35mm classics -- at the Munzinger Auditorium on the University of Colorado campus. Now, the series also shows digital films. Not that it was given much of a choice. As of this year, 35mm films will no longer be made, he says.
Without the switch to Digital Cinema Initiatives-compliant equipment, the International Film Series would not have been able to show any of the films that it offered over the past month.
"The writing was on the wall 10 years ago that things were going to go digital," Kjolseth says. "But in 2013, we were emphatically notified that this was it. This was the last year that I would have been able to tap into current films."
Now, the Boedecker Theater at The Dairy Center for the Arts is hitting the same wall.
The theater recently launched a fundraising drive called "Save the Boe," with the hopes to raise the same amount of money as the IFS did by the end of the year.
The campaign name is dramatic, although the Boedecker's situation isn't exactly do or die. It doesn't imminently face the threat of closure, like many smaller theaters across the country that either must upgrade or go black. Unlike the International Film Series, the Boe has some digital equipment and subscribes to a digital content provider that provides access to digital content.
But that content is limited, says Glenn Webb, cinema manager at the Boedecker. This summer, he says, the Boedecker was unable to screen two titles that it wanted to show. The theater instead picked two other films, and the audience didn't feel the crunch. But the library of available titles will only continue to diminish, Webb says.
"Rather than being like a fire, where you die quickly, this would be like a drought. It wouldn't kill us all at once," Webb says. "It would just limit our ability to book the best, right movies for the Boulder community, to stay relevant and interesting.
It would gradually diminish our reputation as a place to come and see these movies, and we would just become less and less fabulous. We've always been about being as fabulous as we can."
The Boedecker staged a movie trivia fundraiser two weeks ago that raised $20,000. The Boedecker Foundation agreed to match the amount, which leaves the theater about $10,000 to find before the end of the year, when Webb hopes to start the conversion.
He says staff members are brainstorming another fundraising push, but he's "pretty certain" the Boedecker will meet its goal.
On the plus side, Webb says the new digital films have higher quality -- kind of like the difference in quality between a regular DVD and a Blu-ray. But the average movie-goer won't be amazed by the difference, he says.
The real motivation behind the change is to protect copyright and give the movie industry more control over the content, says the International Film Series' Kjolseth. The new "Digital Cinema Package" format can be played only with an encryption key in a small window of time.The hopes: No longer will films such as "Iron Man 3" have viral, illegally pirated versions online the same day as the theater release.
But that content control comes with a downside, as Kjolseth sees it.
"Most bigger multiplexes were given incentives tied in with promises," he says.
"They were allowed to get their equipment at a cheaper rate if they also promised to show a certain amount of studio content, and also if they got rid of their 35mm equipment, which I thought was really criminal.
"It was the studio's way of making sure their new system was now the predominant system everywhere."
And, with that, their chosen content.
Fewer people will have access to the thousands of films made around the world every year. Even classic re-releases will be severely limited.
"In essence, a lot of theaters have basically said they'll no longer show a lot of films from the past," Kjolseth says. "That's why here at the International Film Series, we went the other direction."
The series recently adopted 10 orphan 35mm projectors tossed from other area theaters. Just the other night, Kjolseth says, the series showed a 35mm, stop-motion animation of "King Kong vs. Godzilla."
"For someone like me who grew up with the movies, it's been a game-changing, end-of-an-era event," he says, "but at the same time, I'm very thankful I'm in the position at the IFS where I can preserve the older way of seeing films."
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