What's the best way to enjoy a breezy summer night in a small Maine beach town? For ninety years, Ogunquit tourists and locals alike have frequented The Leavitt Fine Arts Theatre. This historic building was built in 1923 by Frank and Annie Leavitt and has since changed hands twice. Peter Clayton bought the Leavitt in 1976 and has continued to run it as a family business to this day. The Leavitt was built for silent film and has shown first run movies every season without fail through a depression, a recession, and the second World War. Why, then, does the season of 2014 pose the most significant challenge to date for this independent theatre?
The state of the film industry today is changing. There is a massive shift underway that will eliminate the widespread use of 35mm film and usher film into the digital era. No longer will a movie arrive as a spool of film, but instead as a hard drive containing the movie in digital form. Almost 80% of theatres have already converted their system to digital in anticipation of this change. For a film theatre like the Leavitt, this makes our current projectors obsolete and demands a very expensive upgrade of the projection booth, the projectors, and a retraining or rehiring of the projectionist.
The change in technology was decided upon by the film companies in order to conserve resources and save money. The printing of film is an expensive process, as is the shipping. Once a digital system is widespread and established it will allow for easier and more efficient presentation. The challenge lies in the conversion. For multiplexes and mall theatres that bring large percentage grosses, film companies will subsidize the conversion and help the theatre to go digital. The Leavitt has no such subsidy. The current state of the movie industry is already challenging for the small theatre; home entertainment, 3D, and multi-screen cinemas have all made profits difficult. The price of digital conversion without assistance is an impossibility.
The Leavitt Theatre is Ogunquit's only cinema. Within the last fifteen years both the Ogunquit Square Theatre and the Wells Five Star Cinema have closed their doors. The Claytons have continued to run the Leavitt for those who still enjoy a paper ticket ripped off of the roll, hot buttered fresh popcorn, and an attention to quality of picture and sound. We hope that with your help we can keep this Ogunquit tradition alive!
Risks and challenges
The first obstacle is the conversion of the projection booth. Our electrical system will be upgraded and air conditioning and heating will be installed. The next challenge will be to install the new projector. With the help of Pregent Visual Productions, a certified digital conversion specialist, and our projectionist and electrical technician Kevin Hickey, these changes will go smoothly and will result in an updated and state-of-the-art booth. The next challenge will be learning the ins and outs of digital projection. We will face this with the same attention to detail and excellence as when we upgraded from carbon arcs to xenon bulbs. The Leavitt has faced technical challenges and has prevailed. We hope that we will have the opportunity to tackle this next challenge.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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