wWho is benefiting from the transition to digital movie projectors? Not theatergoers; movies look basically the same as they did on 35mm prints, and ticket prices aren’t getting any cheaper. Not theaters; as the Globe reported, many small New England theaters like the Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton have either already gone under or are on the brink of vanishing, unable to afford new digital projectors that cost $60,000 or more.
It’s the big movie studios that are saving money: for them, distributing a digital file on a hard drive costs a tenth as much as producing the big film reels that have been a familiar sight for a century. Eyeing millions of dollars in savings, studios have announced plans to phase out celluloid completely within 18 months. Yet that plan could prove short-sighted unless it’s accompanied by much better efforts from Hollywood to ensure that small theaters survive the transition.