Digital Technology Threatens Future Of Theater

May 1, 2014
Gibson Owner Kim Powell said if the digital projection format cannot be funded, the theater will no longer be equipped to display newly released movies after June 1.

Gibson Owner Kim Powell said if the digital projection format cannot be funded, the theater will no longer be equipped to display newly released movies after June.

Options are limited for the Gibson Theatre in Batesville. The historic downtown theater may be forced to close unless they receive financial assistance in order to purchase needed upgrades to continue showing new movies.

Hollywood has been transitioning toward releasing movies in a digital format. Some industry leaders cite the release of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ as the final movie ever released that would be available in the old 35mm format, which is the current technology at the Gibson.

It is cheaper for movie companies to release the movie digitally, although it comes at a substantial cost for cinemas to upgrade. It has led theaters across the nation to either buy the new equipment or shut their doors.

Gibson Theatre Owner Kim Powell is hoping to spare Batesville’s well-known downtown theater from closing.

“This is something we’ve been working on for six months. We brought it to the attention of the public several months ago through fundraisers and live shows,” Powell explained. “We have been trying to come up with the money to go digital.”

The conversion to the digital format could cost upwards of $53,000, Powell indicated. The theater is currently pursuing grant opportunities through the Hillenbrand Foundation and other organizations.

Long before movies appeared in color, or the dawning of multiple-screen movie theaters, the Gibson has been a local hotspot to watch the famed actors and actresses of Hollywood since the era of silent film.

The one-screen theater was constructed in 1921 by Dr. Charles Gibson. The first film was displayed in 1941 and has since provided local entertainment for generations.

Powell said the historic building offers much more than cinema.

“I feel that the Gibson is so good for the community. We support organizations like the Rural Alliance for the Arts, Choices Program and we do a ton for the schools.”

Powell said that if they successfully transition to the new digital projection format, the former movie equipment will be donated to the Batesville Historical Society.

On Tuesday, Powell released an online fundraising video. The website is the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. The goal is to raise $15,000 toward obtaining the new digital equipment.

View the online fundraising page here >>

Powell was hesitant submitting a video, saying, “This is now crunch time. I was hoping to not go to the public because I know that [nowadays] it is a struggle, it’s week to week. We have applied for the grants and now it is down to crunch time.”

He said he wants to continue seeing people come to watch movies at the Gibson Theatre and support the downtown business.

According to Powell, if the new digital projection format cannot be funded, the theater will no longer be equipped to display newly released movies after June 1.

“If we do not get the digital format at the Gibson Theatre, somewhere down the road we will have to close the doors,” Powell stated.

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