Within the next few years digital projection will reign not only at the multiplexes, but at revival and art houses too. According to an emerging conventional wisdom, film is over. If that is the case, can directors still be called filmmakers? Or will that title be reserved for a few holdouts, like Paul Thomas Anderson, whose new film,“The Master,” was shot in 70 millimeter? It’s not as if our job has ever been to review the coils of celluloid nestled in their cans; we write about the stories and the pictures recorded on that stock. But the shift from photochemical to digital is not simply technical or semantic. Something very big is going on.
But nowhere in all this discussion is a thought given to small-town theaters, many of whom simply can't afford to digitize. That's why we still need the Associated Press wire service:
For small-theater owners, the problem is the sudden switch from 35 mm film, an industry standard since about 1910, to digital - a format that's cheaper for both studios and distributors, and doesn't scratch as traditional film will. The switch means theater owners must buy new projection equipment, computers and a sound system.
Film studio 20th Century Fox has said it will phase out 35 mm film altogether by the end of 2013, and other production companies are expected to follow suit. Traditional film is expected to vanish over the next few years, despite the upcoming U.S. release of "The Master," which was shot with the rare but much higher definition 70 mm film.
Big chains can afford the digital transition, which can be cheaper when buying in bulk for multiscreen theaters. But those who own smaller theaters with one or two screens typically must take out a bank loan to pay for the equipment.
It's examples such as this that gives the Times its sometimes-deserved reputation for elitism. In this case, for a lot of small towns, sadly, this really will be The Last Picture Show.
Wouldn't have hurt the Times to mention that: