LAKE PLACID - Going, going, gone.
A year after the Adirondack North Country Association and Adirondack Film Society launched the Go Digital or Go Dark fundraising campaign to convert 10 Adirondack theaters from 35mm film, all four of the Palace Theatre's screens have now gone digital, as of Thursday, May 1.
"I feel sad because all the old stuff is gone," said Barbara Clark, who has owned the Palace Theatre with her husband Reg since 1961. "We are starting from scratch. It's a sweet-and-sour kind of thing. ... So now we have to learn all this fancy stuff."
HISTORIC MOMENT — The marquee of the Palace Theatre only showed two movies playing when this photo was taken Thursday, April 24 during the conversion of the final two screens from film to digital. It was a double feature on screen 1. (Photo — Andy Flynn)
The idea to save the small-town theaters in the region began in 2012, and the campaign began in earnest on April 26, 2013, with a premiere screening of a Go Digital or Go Dark trailer at the Palace Theatre that would be played before features. Small non-chain theaters across the nation faced closure unless they changed their equipment to digital by the end of 2013, when all the major motion picture companies stopped making film prints of new movies, forcing the expensive conversion on their customers.
The Clarks could not have made the switch without the Go Digital or Go Dark campaign and the support from the community.
"It makes the theater belong to them even more," Barbara said of the patrons who donated money. "And ANCA has been a big factor in our fundraising campaign."
The conversion costs are posted in a glass case outside the theater on Main Street. They total about $266,094. Broken down, it's $66,468 for screen 1, $70,542 for screen 2, $65,118 for screen 3, and $63,966 for screen 4. And that doesn't include more than $18,000 in sales tax. Fundraising has only paid for about half of the bill.
It's still a major financial drain on the theater, so the Clarks are accepting donations to offset their portion of the investment. Even though the fundraising wasn't complete, Barbara said they wanted to finish the conversion before the busy summer months.
For people not familiar with the layout of the Palace Theatre, screen 1 is the largest room with about 300 seats. Featuring the stage and original Robert Morton organ, it has been the main showcase for the theater since it opened as a 925-seat movie palace on May 29, 1926. In 1983, the Clarks closed off the balcony and created another screen. In 1985, they divided the upper section in half and opened a third screen. In 2001, screen 4 was created in a space formerly occupied by a dressing room and part of the original stage, located behind screen 1.
The conversion began last summer with the installment of an NEC digital cinema projector. The first day the Palace Theatre showed a digital film was June 14, 2013. The movie was "Now You See Me," on screen 2, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Morgan Freeman.
In October 2013, screen 1 went digital. The projector room, however, still includes the film equipment, giving the Clarks an opportunity to continue playing available 35mm movies for special events.
The last day the Palace Theatre showed a 35mm first-run film was on Easter Sunday, April 20. The movie was "Rio 2," on screen 4, and it was the quintessential conversion moment. The rest of the week, the same movie was shown as part of a double feature on screen 1 - in digital format. The G-rated cartoon included an all-star cast of voices, such as Andy Garcia, Jamie Foxx and, again, Jesse Eisenberg.
On April 22, Madden's Transfer & Storage took the film equipment out of the projector rooms for screens 3 and 4. On April 23, the digital projectors were delivered. Technicians arrived at the Palace Theatre April 25 to begin the digital conversion of screens 3 and 4, which were ready by May 1, in time for the local premiere of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" on screen 1.
The other theaters in the Go Digital or Go Dark campaign were the Indian Lake Theatre, the Strand Theatre in Old Forge, the Strand in Schroon Lake, the Hollywood in AuSable Forks, the State Theater in Tupper Lake, the Strand in Plattsburgh, the Glen Drive-In in Queensbury, the Cinematheque in Glens Falls and the Ogdensburg Cinema in Ogdensburg.
For more information, visit online at www.adirondack.org/GoDigital.