The last dollar-house theater in the Kansas City metropolitan area has succumbed to the era of digital film.
Noland Fashion Cinema 6, 13520 E. U.S. 40 in Independence, closed its doors for good June 22. The movie theater ran films that had been out weeks, or even months, prior to their initial release at discounted ticket prices since 2002. It opened in the mid 1980s as a first-run theater, said former General Manager Daryl Smith.
“We sure didn’t want to close, but had no choice,” he said.
The major reason behind the theater’s closing was the movie studios’ push for digital film, he added. Both he and Brian Wolfgang of Pharaoh 4 Cinemas, 114 West Maple Ave., in Independence, said it is harder to secure 35 millimeter film prints for exhibition due to many Hollywood movie studios releasing movies only in a digital format. The two theaters still use celluloid film projectors.
“The cost ... didn’t justify the need to continue,” said Smith. He added that attendance at Noland Fashion Cinema 6 declined over the past few years, too. Given the low volume of business, it didn’t warrant the purchase of expensive digital projectors. Plus the time between a film’s theatrical release and its release on either DVD or Blu-ray has considerably shortened over the years, he added.
Now the Pharaoh 4 remains as the only theater in Independence that still uses 35mm prints, but hopefully that is about to change soon, said Wolfgang.
He said his theater is in the process of financing digital projectors that should be installed by late summer. However, it is estimated that four digital projectors for all of Pharaoh’s auditoriums would be in the price range of $250,000.
But it should pay off.
“Developing a 35mm print could be up to $2,000 to $2,500,” Smith said. “It’s cheaper on the digital factor.”
With digital projectors comes the opportunity to also have a 3-D projector, he added. “There should be a resurgence when we become digital.”
Currently, Wolfgang says he had to pass up on some films because the ones they previously acquired have to be shown for a specific amount of time. “We have to make a deal with the studio to show a film for two to three weeks, and we just don’t have the auditorium space.” And given the movie business, it’s hard to foresee what will be a box office draw.
Wolfgang said a kick start program will be set up soon to help raise money for new digital projectors.
As for Smith, he believes the movie theater market will not become obsolete.
“People want to get out of the house. It’s a social experience instead of sitting in front of a screen at home.”