Small-town independent movie theaters may soon be driven into extinction by digital movie houses. The LA times reports that “On the redwood-lined banks of the Russian River, dozens of local residents and tourists gathered in a grassy field on a hot Sunday afternoon, lining up to buy raffle tickets and $10 plates of barbecued chicken as a bluegrass group rehearsed a number for a Ramble at the Rio concert.
“Built from a World War II Quonset hut and adorned with murals from local artists, the Rio has been screening films in this town of about 1,200 people since 1950. Located in the wine country north of San Francisco off the Bohemian Highway, a few miles away from the Bodega Bay filming location of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “The Birds,” the Rio has survived fires, floods and multiple owners.
“But it may not survive the latest threat — the digitization of the film industry. By the end of this year, Hollywood’s major studios will stop delivering film prints to movie theaters, replacing them with cheaper digital hard drives.
“The owners of the 230-seat Rio didn’t have the $60,000 required to upgrade to digital projection. So they’re asking their community to raise the money to help cover the cost, using Sunday fundraisers and the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to save them from extinction. These days the theater’s vintage marquee is emblazoned with the words “Save the Rio.”
“If this place goes down, it will be like a ghost town,” said resident Leslyn Dooley, working the barbecue stand with her husband, who runs a local plumbing business.
“Similar benefits and special events are happening in small towns across America as communities rally to preserve hometown theaters that are holdovers from a bygone era.”