Taft's historic theater could close at the end of the year without help to purchase new projection equipment
Like the venerable film hero who over and over miraculously cheats death to save the planet – or the girl – Taft's only picture show is once again in need of a miracle ending.
This time, though, it's the digital revolution that is menacing the Fox Theatre.
Simply put, the motion picture industry, perhaps as early as the end of the year, will no longer ship reels of celluloid to local theater projection rooms.
The industry is going digital, forcing movie houses to swap their 35mm projectors for a more tech savvy way of screening movies.
"If we are not able to convert, the theater will close at the end of the year," said Fox operator Kent Coke.
Making the switch isn't cheap.
Upgrading each of the Fox's three screens will run about $65,000 a pop, he said.
"I plan on doing everything I can to keep the Fox open, but we need the community's help with this."
To that end, Coke is planning to launch a unique fund-raising campaign in hopes of raising the $40,000 he'll need for a down payment on new digital equipment for the main theater.
"We have a lease-to-own deal that would allow us to have the equipment installed for $40K and spread the remaining cost out over several years. At the end of the lease, we would own the equipment."
Coke plans to utilize a new fund-raising platform called "Kickstarter" that is designed to lure backers for creative projects.
"We are launching a Kickstarter campaign in a week or two to try to raise (the) $40,000," he said.
Coke cited two reasons why he must make the transition to digital.
"First, studios have been pushing theaters to convert to digital for quite some time because it saves them a lot of money not having to produce prints and ship them.
"The second reason is that the existing supply of 35mm film will be depleted soon – no one knows when – and it is no longer being manufactured. Kodak went bankrupt and Fuji has ceased production of 35mm film. When it's gone, that's it – no more movies on film."
Movies these days are being shipped on hard-drives.
"Theaters will 'ingest' the digital content on a server," Coke said. "The server provides a secure connection to a digital projector, which projects the movie onto the screen."
An article in the April 15 edition of The Hollywood Reporter indicated the digital conversion began two years ago and noted that about 85 percent of the screens in North America had made the switch by the end of last year.
It said the move to digital is having a profound impact on the industry.
"In fact, studios and filmmakers might not be in control of their own destiny," the report said.
Kodak, which is emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, said it plans to continue to manufacture and sell film products, including motion picture film, but probably in limited capacity.
Coke said the City of Taft and the Taft Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center is pledging to do what they can to help the theater remain open.
"The bottom line is that without some help the Fox is going to go away," said Mayor Paul Linder.