There are currently only about 400 drive-in movie theaters left in America. There are only six in Colorado. If you live in Fort Collins, there is one right in your backyard: Holiday Twin Drive-In.
Movie theaters are currently undergoing quite a change. They are supposed to convert from a 35 millimeter film (the gold standard for movie theaters everywhere for more than 50 years) to a digital projection system.
“It is going to cost about $250,000 to switch to digital that we have to pay out of pocket,” said Stephanie Webb, co-owner of Holiday Twin. “Eventually they are going to stop making the 35 mm film.”
For Holiday Twin, the switch will be a blessing.
“With film there is the issue of shipping the film and storing it. We have to build the movie and preview it to make sure it will play correctly,” Webb said. “Digital will eliminate all these issues. It’s called drag and drop.”
The digital conversion also makes for a lot more options for a movie theater that has a lot of indirect competition. With five other movie theaters in the Fort Collins area, as well as all the other ways that people can watch movies today, Holiday Twin needs to create itself a niche.
They will lose the 1950s movie projectors that are currently still running strong, but with that loss comes other gains.
“Lets say that the fraternities and sororities from campus want to do a movie night,” Webb said. “We ask them what two movies they want to watch — for instance ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and one more — and then we get the okay to show those two movies. All the fraternities and sororities come and fill the place up. Digital will give us that opportunity.”
The digital conversion even allows them to play movies off of Netflix after they get the rights for it.
“We can do retro night on Tuesdays or something,” Webb said. “People will love the drive-in even more. You can’t believe how many requests I can get. I can’t play ‘Smokey and the Bandit.’ But now with digital we can.”
Another one of Fort Collins’ niche movie theaters is the independent movie theater near Mountain Avenue and Jefferson Street: The Lyric Cinema Cafe.
The Lyric raised $150,000 for the conversion through the fundraising website Kickstarter.
“There is one thing that I don’t like about the digital conversion,” said Ben Mozer, owner of The Lyric. “They are really shoving it down people’s throats. They said if you don’t get it done by spring of next year you will go out of business. We are cutting it pretty close, and we are converting next February.”
Because The Lyric doesn’t show blockbuster or high grossing films, they have to go out and find movies from different producers that will hopefully do well. The digital conversion could possibly change the way things are done.
“I think what you’ll see is isolated areas of independent film,” Mozer said. For instance, movies made by Fort Collins residents for Fort Collins residents. For an independent theater, these types of movies have the potential to bring in more revenue than a traditional indie film that no one has heard of.
“You can buy really nice $800 cameras and make your own movies,” Mozer said. “I know a bunch of people with theses cameras just lying around; I know a guy with a bag of lenses; I know about a dozen people with Final Cut Pro; you can go to Best Buy and spend $8,000 and you have everything you need to make a quality film. Then you can make it and release your own movie.”
All of this is possible because of the digital conversion, just hand them the hard drive and it is ready to go.
Then, thanks to the Lyric, you could show your movie to all of Fort Collins, and that may just be the beginning of your virtual stardom.