Movie theaters are a quintessential experience in people’s lives, as a meeting place, as a family gathering, as a pastime that transcends age, race, class and status. But as movie distributions have made the move to digital, some small, rural theaters have struggled to keep up with the times, many citing prohibiting costs of converting equipment to show new films. With less new content to show and thus less community interest, these cinemas are finding it difficult to keep afloat–but the Office of Economic Development and International Trade has taken steps to change that.
With the Rural Theater Digital Conversion Grant, launched in 2013, small-town movie theaters can apply for grants to cover the costs of converting to digital equipment that is now required for new film content, regardless of their for- or nonprofit status. Grants range from $10,000 to $30,000, and is dependent on total demand.
One of the theaters impacted includes the Paradise Theater of Paonia, a nonprofit theater built in 1925 with 1 screen. Paonia’s theater received $19,000 for renovations and upgrades. The grant has been credited with saving a historic town institution. For many people, this isn’t just saving a movie theater, but a community hub, a place of entertainment that can be scarce in rural areas. Paradise Theater is more than just a theater for the town of 1,451, as they host various events such as the Health Care Town Hall Meeting and a film festival.
The Rural Theater Digital Conversion Grant is supported by several organizations, including the Boettcher Foundation and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). OEDIT has been a substantial partner, contributing $200,000 in funds and providing a team to review each theater for eligibility.
The Rural Theater Digital Conversion Grant has helped 13 theaters convert their equipment and thus keeping them in business. Additional grant dollars are still available. Just over $148,000 still remains for any eligible rural theater looking to digitize their film equipment. Learn more here.