Thief River Falls theater faces new era, expensive digital upgrades
THIEF RIVER FALLS -- To keep Falls Cinema operating, owner Jeff Lund is not asking for a handout, but rather a hand. Lund faces what many movie theater owners have been facing, a move to digital movies that requires the purchase of expensive equi...
THIEF RIVER FALLS -- To keep Falls Cinema operating, owner Jeff Lund is not asking for a handout, but rather a hand.
Lund faces what many movie theater owners have been facing, a move to digital movies that requires the purchase of expensive equipment. Other movie theaters in the region have been saved by donations from local residents, and grants and low-interest loans from economic development groups, all hoping to preserve their towns' quality of life.
Falls Cinema, with a digital conversion expense of $125,000, is in the same situation.
One difference is Lund's fundraising strategy, which rewards donors with mementos from the days of 35-mm film, soon to be replaced by the digital equipment, and movie tickets and concessions.
"We're basically asking people to pay it forward," Lund said. "We're asking people to pre-buy the costs of going to a movie."
Another difference is that Thief River Falls' population of 8,500 dwarfs the head counts in Cando, Langdon, Park River and Grafton in North Dakota and Roseau, Minn., among the locales where theaters have survived the technology shift thanks to gifts.
"Small towns first lost their roller rinks and then their bowling alleys, so they want to hang onto theaters so there's not yet another reason for people to go out of town," said Bob Moore, owner of the River Cinema 15 in East Grand Forks.
He did not seek outside help to upgrade his theater, but he said he knows the problems of smaller town theaters because he has family members operating screens in Crookston and Fosston, Minn.
'Pay it forward'
Lund said he plans to pay for the digital equipment with a $35,000 loan and $90,000 in donations. When he and his son Daniel purchased the theater three years ago, he said, they spent $60,000 on improvements.
"We would never put in digital if we weren't forced to," Lund said. "Digital has five times the picture quality and five times the sound quality as 35 millimeter, but we're not going to make more money with it. You can't raise admission prices in a small town.
"On Oct. 1, after two months of doing this, we'll decide what we're going to do"
Lund has a list of what donors will receive at each level.
Starting with a $10 donation the donor would receive a 4-inch splice of 35-millimeter film from a movie and his or her name on the screen preceding each movie.
For a $25 donation, the donor also would receive two movie tickets, two large boxes of popcorn and two large soft drinks. The admission and concession prices would add up to $25.
For $150, the donor would receive a private showing for 20 guests, with unlimited popcorn and soft drinks. A $1,750 gift will reserve all 216 seats for a private showing.
Other donations will fetch a 35-mm reel, a 35-mm projector or a name on a theater seat.
On the Web: Find a complete list of donation options at Falls-Cinema.com next week.
Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send e-mail to email@example.com .