Small town cinema says farewell to film

The Elk Rapids Cinema is open every day, all year long.

Small town theaters are feeling the pressure when it comes to the move to digital. At the end of the year, filmmakers are switching to digital, making film obsolete.

The Elk Rapids Cinema made the switch recently. The digital system has been up and running for about a week, but the owner said it has been a long time coming.

For forty years, Joe Yuchasz has called the Elk Rapids Cinema his own. The one-screen theater dates back to 1940.

Many changes have taken place at the theater over the years, like installing new seats and carpet. The last round of improvements took place in 2008 and 2009.

â??We just about finished paying for that, so I guess we're ready for the next step and another bill,â?? said Joe Yuchasz, owner of Elk Rapids Cinema. â??We're in good enough shape to borrow the money.â??

The media change, from film to digital, is one that affects theaters nationwide and carries a hefty price tag.

The new projector for Elk Rapids Cinema cost over $60,000. When you factor in a new sound system, ventilation, and training, the total is closer to $80,000.

The movies are now delivered on hard drives which are much more durable than film.

â??The hard drive doesn't scratch, and it doesn't get water marks on it, and it doesn't get dirt on it,â?? said Yuchasz. â??Itâ??s easier to show a film. You donâ??t have to thread the projector anymore. You just push a button and say do it again.â??

Yuchasz decided to keep the film equipment around. It stands silently next to the new projector.

â??We may or may not use the film equipment again, I don't know,â?? explained Yuchasz. â??Obviously, if the digital goes down tomorrow and has to be removed and sent to the factory, there's 35mm copies we can call up and say send me a 35.â??

Yuchasz said he does not plan on increasing prices to help offset the loan. â??The local audience is very supportive, so if that continues, we'll probably be ok.â??

The digital switch saves theaters money when it comes to shipping and handling. The new hard drives weigh around two and a half pounds. The film reels typically come in 50 or 60 pound boxes.

The movie theater owner said he loves his job. â??Almost everyone is coming here to have a good time. Very few people feel forced to see a film.â??

You can find Yuchasz behind the candy counter, talking to people about movies and selling candy bars.