Let’s stop calling them films. The Brattle and Coolidge Corner, months after successful Kickstarter campaigns, have upgraded their projection systems to digital technology, meaning that every one of the Boston area’s first-run movie houses has made the conversion. The Brattle has even fashioned a DCP Debut repertory series, named after the format used to store digitally projected films. Running from Monday through the Fourth of July, it’s designed to “explore” the new technology. For years, these independent theaters have cultivated an audience through a steadfast commitment to film, but now they’re forced to sell us on the alternative. Yes, 35mm equipment does remain at the Brattle and the Coolidge, as well as at the Somerville Theatre. But the writing’s on the projection-booth wall.
“Theaters like the Brattle talk about showing movies ‘the way they are meant to be seen,’ ” notes Ned Hinkle, creative director there. “And we have had to, kind of, redefine what that means.” Hinkle almost uses the word “film,” but caught himself. He was right to do so. It’s become a misnomer. Over the past few years, multiplex giants like AMC and Regal have changed to completely digital modes. Most of the first-run films that the Brattle now shows are exhibited digitally, too. And the Coolidge recently had its first week of completely digital programming: seven days passing without a single thread of film catching the light of a projector. From the consumer’s point of view, film is almost as dead as laser disc. For the first time, there have recently been days where you simply couldn’t see a newly released film on 35mm in Boston.