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Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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Cinema 6 struggles with digital conversion

Movie studios are phasing out the 35mm format for films that has endured for well over a century in favor of digital copies for the local cineplex.

Cinema 6 in Port Richey is struggling to convert from film projectors to digital projectors, and movie studios will stop making 35mm prints by the end of the year. Cinema 6 faces huge expenses to upgrade to digital projectors.

Yet Chanel Casteel and the other owners of Cinema 6 want to keep the doors open at the second-run theater at 9510 U.S. 19. Where else can West Pasco residents still see flicks on a 24-foot screen for $3 a ticket? Or get snacks at the concession stand for about half the price?

Many theaters owned by chains have already made the conversion, such as Regal Hollywood 18, owned by the Regal Entertainment Group.

“Our projectors are from the 1970s,” Casteel said.

The cost to install digital projectors could run as high as $268,000, Casteel said. Plus the theater requires rewiring for digital sound.

Studios used to release about 3,000 movie prints a year nationwide, but that number has shrunk to about 200 now, Casteel said.

There was a time when Regal Hollywood 18, just north of Cinema 6, could pack up the 35mm print that had finished its first run and send it to Cinema 6 for the movie’s second run. Theaters used to get a window to show movies before they became available on cable TV channels and on DVD.

“We didn’t get ‘Frozen’ until after the DVD” of the Disney animated hit already was for sale or rent for a month, Casteel said. Redbox rentals become part of the competition for the theater in that scenario.

Cinema 6 hopes to get a big bounce in attendance from students on summer break.

“If we don’t have a decent summer, we’ll have to close our doors” by the last weekend of August, Casteel said.

Current owners also are pumping up promotions to save Cinema 6. Casteel has led theater operations for nearly five years as of August, but the theater dates back decades under previous ownership.

A Kickstarter fundraising campaign continues through June 21 under “Keep Cinema 6 Open.”

“West Pasco’s only affordable theater will close without your help,” Casteel wrote on the website. Read more at www.kickstarter.com/projects/ 1611709293/keep-cinema-6-open.

The theater set out a large donation box in the lobby where moviegoers can drop dollar bills or change to support Cinema 6.

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