It’s the end of an era. By April 1, all of greater Burlington’s indoor theaters will present films using digital projection. Owner Merrill Jarvis III says that he plans to convert the last two holdouts — the downtown Merrill’s Roxy Cinemas and South Burlington Palace 9 — in mid-March.
The cost: $100,000 per screen, with 15 screens total. Two of those screens will be 3-D capable at the Roxy, and three at the Palace. Jarvis says he’ll also update the sound systems at both multiplexes to 7.1 surround sound.
For theater owners, digital conversion is no longer a choice. Not only are studios increasingly reluctant to ship out heavy film prints, but Fujifilm has announced plans to stop manufacturing motion-picture film stock in March. (Kodak, meanwhile, is in bankruptcy.) Across the U.S., owners of small, independent theaters — such as the Fairlee Drive-In, which we wrote about last August — are desperately raising funds for their conversion.
It’s a sad time for those who love the flicker of 35-millimeter film. But Jarvis says he’ll keep one old film projector in storage at each theater — just in case.