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Midwest Theater readies for conversion
March 21, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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Later this summer, movies at the Midwest Theater will be shown on a digital projector and accompanied by Surround Sound.

Friends of the Midwest Theater have already received two grants to help fund the project. The Peter Kiewit Foundation awarded them a $40,000 challenge grant and another $15,000 came from a grant from the Oregon Trail Community Foundation.

Last weekend, the Rotary Club held its Rotary Gold event to raise funds for the theater. Past recipients have received grants of $15,000 to $20,000, which is determined after all of the resources and donations have been counted.

“We are hoping this is the last cog of our fundraising for our digital cinema and Surround Sound upgrades for the theater,” said Billy Estes, Midwest Theater manager. “We’ll close the week of July 22 to install the equipment.”

The upgrade will include a new projector, server, and acoustical treatment that can handle the new Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound system.

Estes said they’re also equipping the theater for the potential of receiving live symphony or opera productions via Internet or satellite feed.

Estes said they still receive 35 mm prints of movies to show, but the studios are moving away from film altogether.

“Film delivers is now shifting to hard drive for major studio releases,” he said. “Some of the smaller studios are moving that way as well.”

The Carmike Theaters at the Monument Mall converted to digital projection several years ago, as have commercial theaters across the country. And while some industry experts have shared concerns about movie piracy, it hasn’t been a problem so far.

Estes said that in November 2011, they received notification from Fox Studios they would no longer produce or distribute 35 mm films as of Dec. 31, 2012. Other studios haven’t set an end date on film prints, but that date is fast approaching.

“Smaller studios will be affected as well,” Estes said. “As more and more theaters convert to digital projection, there’s less and less market for 35 mm prints in first run content.”

Estes added he still believes there will always be a market for 35 mm films, especially in the field of classic and archival films.

“As film experts complete restoration of some of the classic films, they also make digital copies,” he said. “Right now, we’re working on a plan on how we can fit those into our programming.”
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