Falmouth Cinema Pub Makes Digital Conversion
By: Brent Runyon, January 2, 2013
The show will go on at the Falmouth Cinema Pub now that the owners have invested in a new digital projection system for the only remaining movie theater in Falmouth.
Brian Hanney, one of the owners of the cinema at the Falmouth Mall, said they spent $300,000 on new digital cinema projectors and the installation was completed at the end of last month. “It was expensive, but it was either we did it or closed the theater,” he said. “So we made that gamble.”
Film distributors are phasing out the 35-millimeter film prints in favor of digital copies that are cheaper to produce and ship across the country. In an interview this past October, Mr. Hanney said they were deciding whether to purchase the new projectors to show digital cinema or close.
Although the projectors are a major investment, Mr. Hanney said, they provide a clearer, brighter picture than the old film projectors. “I was actually pretty amazed. I didn’t think it was going to be that dramatic of a difference,” he said. “The picture is great. It looks phenomenal.”
Upstairs in the projection booth at the Falmouth Cinema Pub, four charcoal gray boxes shoot light onto screens a hundred feet away. Other than the sound of computer fans to cool the equipment, the projection booth is quiet.
It is a big change from the familiar sound of film sprockets passing through the projector gears. Over the first 125 years of cinema, movies were printed on physical film with 24 pictures for every second of the film. The illusion of motion is created by the light flashing through each picture for a fraction of a second and then advancing onto the next frame.
The old 35-millimeter film projectors were thrown away as scrap metal, Mr. Hanney said.
Until recently, films were delivered on five to eight heavy reels that were combined into one giant reel on a platter to show a movie. The process was time consuming and sometimes resulted in damage to the film.
Fear Of The Unknown
Now, there will be no more scratches, but Mr. Hanney said the computer-based system makes him a little nervous because he does not know how to fix anything. “My fear is that it’s computers and you know what happens with computers,” he said.
Movies now come on a computer hard drive, about the size of a VCR tape, which is loaded onto a computer network. As a result, any film can be shown in any theater.
One theater has a 3D projector, which is currently showing “Monsters Inc.,” but that film is not bringing in the crowds. “It was the only kid picture for Christmas week so I picked that one, but we literally had only two people in our 1 PM show,” he said.
With only four screens there is little room for error, he said. “You’ve got to have the right movie to get people in,” he said. Customers enjoy the food served there, but it is the movies that draw crowds. Other films such as “Les Miserables” or “Django Unchained” may have done better, he said.
This past fall Regal Entertainment closed the Nickelodeon Cinemas on Route 151 because of declining revenues and the expense of converting to digital cinema projections. To help fill that void, Falmouth Cinema Pub has played a few art house films including “Anna Karenina.” That film did well, and Mr. Hanney said he may run more of that type of film.
He said he did not think the Nickelodeon would ever reopen as a traditional movie theater because Regal is the only company that could afford to upgrade the equipment.
Mr. Hanney, 52, lives in Eastham and has worked in movie theaters since he was 18. Falmouth Cinema Pub is part of the Entertainment Cinemas, a regional chain.
Nationwide, about two-thirds of the 5,700 movie theaters have converted to digital cinema projectors, said Patrick Corcoran, director of media and research for the National Association of Theater Owners. Those theaters comprise about 83 percent of the 39,777 screens in the country, he said.
Mr. Corcoran said he does not know how many theaters have closed rather than convert to digital cinema.