Landmarks Feb 2012 flier

Theatre talk by THS staff in Chicago Feb. 16


  1. Conversion has nothing to do with expense of digital equipment. It’s a flat cost to purchase the equipment (about $30k per screen) and remain independent or the Ballentine Company replaces your film equipment with digital equipment for free but forces you to get rid of your film projection equipment. The old film projectors must be taken out of the booth! Your screens are then programmed by Ballentyne and the Studios. The over-the-internet film downloads are double encrypted and should a projectionist/manager remove one screw from the digital projector the system locks down. In other words the theater operators are now reduced to glorified candy butchers and janitors in their own theatres. Their film projection is now in the hands of the distributors. Does this sound like a way around the old Consent Decree? 35mm film will be a thing of the past as soon as the current stock of celluloid film is retired. That is a visual shame since digital pixelation has no comparison to the warmth and depth of 35mm film. This control will make it impossible for Revival and Repertory film theaters to get product. Ballentyne and the Studios are not interested in digitalizing old films for download projection. Those aspects of presentation are now handled by DVDs and in-home streaming. AMC and TCM gave us problems from 1990 to the present but this will essentially kill independent cinema operation. As to a Theatre’s part in the revitalization of a neighborhood, as a graduate of the University of California at San Luis Obispo in City & Regional Planning, the Music Box Theatre is a text book example of City Planning in what lighting up the nighttime streetscape and bringing people into the area after dark can do. Unfortunately, independent cinema is going the way of Vaudeville. The remaining film venues, our beloved old movie theatres, will have to find some other product to survive in the near future.
    Chris Carlo, Bob Chaney
    Owner & Operators; Music Box Theatre, Chicago (1983-2005)

  2. ERROR – $30k is reasonable. The cost is $60-80k per screen for a multiplex sized screen. For an 800 seat theatre, like the Music Box, it would be $100k for a digital projector with quality lenses to fill large screen size.

  3. Joan Lengyel

    Wish I could be there to hear Richard. Good publicity for THS so bring a PR person along to work the room for new membership. Richard will be plenty busy answering questions and delighting the audiance with his knowledge. My theatre in town is reving up for digital projection. Owner was up to Toronto being trained on his $200,000.00 “investment” in Digital equipment.

    • theatrehistoricalsoc

      A nice crowd of about 85 people who asked interesting questions. THS members Willis and Shirley Johnson, Dave Syfczak, and Brian Wolf were there.
      Folks said they might like to tour our American Movie Palace Museum with a group and asked if this slide talk can be presented to other groups. It can be.

  4. Joan Lengyel

    Interesting but depressing discussion. Just finished watching “On the Waterfront”.

  5. Joan Lengyel

    At the moment a four screen house is doing a 2 and 2 with its four screens. They will slowly phase out 35 and go the four digital. A monetary arrangement is in place to do that. Your initial investment must come from your back pocket.

  6. Who is the Ballentine Company? What do they get out of the arrangement after they install free digital projectors? (and, yes, I’d rather keep on seeing 35mm!)

    If only there was a machine that for free (or modest cost) would instantly transport me (no planes, trains or cars) to Chicago, i’d love to hear the lecture. And, see another film at the Music Box.

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