About Digital Cinema

Is Digital Cinema Only 3D?

No. Digital allows a theater to show 3D movies, but 3D is only one of the many advantages offered by digital cinema. In fact, 3D is probably not the greatest advantage of digital technology to a theater.

What Are the Advantages of Digital Cinema?

Digital cinema means that instead of 35mm film, the movie is on a computer hard drive. This results in greatly reduced production, shipping, and labor expense. For example, instead of shipping a 70 pound, multi-parcel 35mm film, you now ship a one-pound hard drive. When this arrives, there is no labor involved in splicing, mounting, and threading the film. The loading of the digital movie takes less than an hour, and once begun, the loading process can run by itself. When the movie is over, the same savings in labor and freight are realized once again.

Digital also means that every movie is crystal clear because there is no film to wear out and scratch. The image doesn't jump, and there is no clacking noise from the projector booth. Finally, digital means 3D movies are possible.

If Digital is So Great, Why Doesn't Every Theater Use It?

Soon, they probably will. Digital is preferred by the movie distributors for many reasons: they don't have to make and ship heavy 35mm film, and the viewing quality of their movies is greatly improved. In addition, with digital, movie distributors can conceivably give every movie theater the same movie on opening night, because they can create a virtually unlimited number of "prints" at low cost. Smaller theaters often don't get the movie on opening night, but this is because of political, historical, and economic reasons, not technical ones.

Movie theaters have been slow to adopt digital simply because of the initial cost. However, the recent surge in popularity of 3D movies has allowed some movie houses to make substantial additional income. These increased profits have accelerated the move to digital.

In November, 2010, Technicolor Inc., one of the world's largest film processors, announced that it will close its North Hollywood film plant, citing "the decline in film and growth of digital."

In March, 2011, Brad Bills, a movie booker and industry observer, mentioned the closing of several more film depots. He goes on to say, "This location along with 16 other depots will also close sometime this year. That will leave only 10 depots remaining indefinitely to cover the entire United States...I thought that they'd remain through the end of this year, but due to the continued transition to digital projection, the number of shipped 35mm prints has now shrunk to 2000-2500 for the entire nation. (That's down from 6000-7000 five years ago)...I have been saying for a while now that by the time I'm 50 (April, 2014) I won't be booking any movies on film. With this move, I'm not sure if film will even last that long."

In January, 2014, Paramount was the first movie studio toannounce that it was no longer shipping movies in 35mm film. In this article, Phil Rhodes discusses some of the implications of the loss of 35mm file to small theaters and internationally.

Will Theaters Without Digital Have to Close?

In June, 2012, this article said that, "Time is running out for theaters that haven't made the switch to digital projection."

The article continues to say that the use of conventional 35mm prints "is projected to cease in the United States and other major markets by the end of next year, with global cutoff likely to happen by the end of 2015," according to the latest IHS Screen Digest Cinema Intelligence Service report. The firm says that 51.5% of worldwide screens had digital projectors at the end of 2011, an increase of 82% from 2010.

Fund Raising Banner

When Did the Cheyenne Theater Go Digital?

We had our Digital Premiere on March 4, 2011, four months after the digital fund drive began.

Since the volunteer Theater Board had spent many hours working on this issue over the last three years, it was a happy weekend for the Board and for the Community. The only real road block had been the cost: $94,000 for the digital conversion. Despite previous fund drives which resulted in generous contributions by the community and alumni, and which allowed the Cheyenne Theater to upgrade sound equipment and install new seats, the magnitude of the digital conversion was felt to exceed the fund raising available from donations.

Because of this funding gap, the Theater Board consulted with the St. Francis City Council. The Council has long supported the Theater, as it sees a small town theater in the same light as a public swimming pool or a park: something needed by the community but which cannot generate all of its funding from ticket and concession sales. The Council decided to budget $12,500 per year for five years. The Theater then mounted a successful fund drive, which very rapidly raised more than $42,000, no small feat in such a small community.

Wasn't $94,000 A Lot of Money?

Yes. At least, the Theater Board thinks that it was!

But the present 35mm projector is probably four decades old, and if the digital projector lasts only 20 years, then the cost is less than $5,000 per year. The Cheyenne Theater will save several thousand dollars every year in reduced freight and wages, and it is likely that the clearer picture and the 3D format will increase ticket and concession sales.

Converting to digital is a good business decision, which is why so many theaters are converting as quickly as they can. Indeed, this is a global conversion, and the Independent Cinema Association of Australia (ICAA) is calling digital conversion "the most important change in cinema exhibition in 100 years."

Did the Cheyenne Theater Borrow Money and Obtain Digital Sooner?

Yes, in the form of a lease-purchase. Immediately after the successful fund drive, in January, 2011, the City Council approved this concept, and BankWest was the lender.

Converting to Digital quickly is better sooner than later, because several surrounding theaters are already offering digital and 3D, which puts the Cheyenne Theater at a competitive disadvantage. In addition, the annual savings from freight and labor will be much greater than the interest cost.

Are Donations Still Being Accepted?

Yes. While the Theater is not actively soliciting donations, we gladly accept them. We operate on a very tight budget and spend money carefully, so your donation will be appreciated and used carefully. Click here for details, please.