GILBERT — The ability to see movies in Mingo County just got a lot harder.
The Larry Joe Harless Community Center Board of Directors voted Friday to close its cinema effective Aug. 15, unless an outside funding source can be found to provide needed upgrades to the projector.
According to Cheryl Mitchem, Executive Director of the LJHCC, the cinema must convert to digital projection since 35 mm film will no longer be available for theater distribution by Dec. 31.
The conversion, she said, would cost around $45,000.
“We have so many vital programs at the LJHCC that impact our community, such as the arthritis classes, swim league and Silver Sneakers, that the board did not want to put these programs in jeopardy by taking much needed funds to upgrade a theater that has a minimal audience,” Mitchem told the Daily News.
The new format, called Digital Cinema Package (DCP), is a collection of files stored on a small hard drive. Films, stored on the hard drive, will be mailed in a foam-lined plastic case to the theater, where it will then be inserted into a server which runs the digital projector. This new format can’t run on traditional film projectors.
Film, having served more than 100 years as the choice of projection in many movie theaters, was pushed aside in favor of digital distribution in late 2011. Major reasons listed for the switch were that film reels were more expensive than digital storage, degrade faster, and are much heavier to ship. Some filmmakers also felt that digital film produced better movies, saying it allowed them to keep cameras running while actors performed, rather than spending money on lengthy rehearsals.
Mitchem said that the problem of upgrading was happening to a lot of theaters, but also said that “outside donations could be used to provide the updates so we would be able to stay operable.”
Currently, the plan for the LJHCC is to keep its theater for events such as mine re-training and other group activities.