SALEM, Mass. — Paul Van Ness hopes Hollywood’s move to new technology won’t result in the showing of the last picture show at his downtown theater.
In a campaign called "Save Cinema Salem," Ness is trying to raise $60,000 to purchase equipment to convert his Museum Place Mall theater to digital movie projection, a technology upgrade mandated by the Hollywood studios. Without the funds, he says the theater can’t stay open, or at least can’t continue as a first-run movie house.
“There are already a bunch of movie theaters that have gone out of business because they are not able to come up with the money to go through this transition,” Van Ness said. “If we don’t succeed in making this transition, there’s no way we can stay in business because there will be no films for us to show.”
Although his small, first-run cinema has gained a foothold in the community, Van Ness said the business does not have the funds for this large, one-time payment. Thus, he is seeking donations through a website set up to raise money for creative projects and other ventures.
Using a concept called “crowd funding,” via Kickstarter, a website set up to raise money for creative projects, is a way for a large number of individuals to make donations to a business or cause. Similar campaigns have been successful at small independent community theaters around the country, Van Ness said.
“It’s an opportunity for people to vote for what kind of downtown we want, what kind of movie-going experience we’re going to have,” he said. “It’s kind of a time for people to think about what they value.”
Launched Tuesday, the Kickstarter campaign raised more than $2,000 in the first few hours. As of Tuesday night, the total was nearly $12,500.
The Salem Chamber of Commerce has joined the save-the-cinema effort. “The board told me to do anything I can as a chamber director to help Paul be successful in this campaign,” said Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the chamber and an organizer with Van Ness of the Salem Film Fest. “That doesn’t happen very often.”
“Save CinemaSalem” must receive $60,000 in online pledges by Jan. 14, the deadline for the fund drive. In the all-or-nothing campaign, backers are charged on their credit cards only if the funding goal is reached by the deadline.
The switch to digital projection is necessary because the major Hollywood studios are discontinuing distribution of 35 mm movies, which the industry has used for decades. Most are making the switch next year, Van Ness said.
Instead of shipping heavy boxes containing large movie reels, the studios will send the movies on secure hard drives.
Details for this story were provided by The Salem (Mass.) News.