New York to Loan Upstate Fund $400K for Digital Theater Conversions

Funding targets small theaters in the Adirondacks

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New York is hoping to keep the projectors running in independent theaters throughout the Adirondacks.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday that $400,000 in funding is being made available for the North Country Regional Economic Development Council’s digital film conversion loan fund to help small theaters in the northern part of the state convert projection equipment to digital technologies.

The financial support comes at a time when many small town movie theaters across the country are facing extinction because they cannot afford the cost of converting from film projectors. Making the transition can cost theater owners between $65,000 to $150,000 per screen. Estimates are that between 10 to 20 percent of U.S. theaters will not convert and may be forced to shut their doors as studios stop providing film prints.

Also read: A Bleak Picture for Non-Digital Independent Theaters: Convert or Die

So far, 4,499 out of the country’s 5,670 locations have converted to digital and 36,105 of its 40,045 screens, a spokesman from the National Association of Theater Owners told TheWrap. Studios have been advocating the change for years, because digital distribution allows them to save thousands of dollars in print fees.

New York’s short-term loan fund will be administered by Development Authority of the North Country.  The loans augment the efforts of a local campaign called “Go Digital or Go Dark,” which was spearheaded by the Adirondack Film Society and the Adirondack North Country Association. Over the past two months, its efforts have brought in enough funds to save three local theaters, the governor’s office said.

“Across the Adirondacks, movie theaters have been struggling to take on costly upgrade projects to stay in business,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement. “Faced with this reality, businesses and community leaders came together through the regional council initiative to create the Digital Film Conversion Loan Fund, which will help small-town cinemas in the North Country modernize their equipment and remain competitive. This is another example of how public-private partnerships are helping to promote economic growth in communities across the state.”