November 15, 2012 | Vol. 39, No. 46

Local theater hopes to convert to digital by Oct 2013

The Northern Nights Theater will come upon obstacles by the end of 2013 unless it is converted to a digital system. The organization has raised almost $30,000 of the $75,000 needed for the conversion.

“Compass Theater began about 13 to 14 years ago,” Compass Theater, Inc. Vice President Dave Berg said. “Everything was going along fine, except now the distributors aren't going to be sending celluloid prints any longer.”

Berg explained that with most movie houses moving with the change to digital formats, it is becoming more difficult to get first run movies.

The theater has a board of officers both adult and student that coordinate all aspects of the business.

“A digital format has many benefits,” Berg said. “Instead of getting a big box of film we will get a hard disk in the mail that will need to be downloaded into the new system, this will save on shipping costs that are around $400 per month now.”

He also explained that the quality of the film will not degrade over time and there is very little failure rate with the digital format.

“Right now, to get a first-run print, the studio would want us to run it for 14 days in a row,” Berg stated. “That just wouldn't be productive in a town of 3,000. We just don't have the market for that.”

Moving to a digital system will mean a new projector and the associated computers and servers to store the information to get it to the projector.

“This is expensive equipment,” Berg stated.

According to Berg, money has been coming in a little at a time and there have been some nice contributions from businesses and individuals in town.

The goal of the Compass Theater Board is to finish fundraising by next summer so that installation can be completed by Oct. 31, 2013.

“These fundraising efforts will really help our case when we go to the legislature and the Department of Education, or anywhere else we go for future funding,” Berg said. “There is definitely hope.”

With this new system the theater will be able to receive first-run films within 10 days of release.

“Right now we are limited to the selection we are able to provide,” Berg stated. “Because they just won't send them to us because we aren't a big enough venue.”

He also stated that part of the money they have now is the money they have been able to make along the way.

“If we don't make this conversion, there will come a point when we won't be able to show films anymore at all,” he said.

“It will take a while to get the equipment here and get it installed,” Berg stated. “With this conversion will come a better theater experience for the community.”

Compass Theater, Inc. was started with a grant from the Department of Education and the program was offered to schools around Alaska to set up programs that benefitted the students.

“This program created job opportunities and opportunities to learn about business,” Berg said. “There were a number of student courts set up but Compass Theater is the last one that has been able to maintain itself.”

To make a contribution to this effort, please send funds in care of Digital Conversion; PO Box 421.

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