Going digital could take a local theatre out of business - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Going digital could take a local theatre out of business


HARMONY, Minn. (KTTC) -- The smells of warm buttery popcorn may soon be a thing of the past in one local community. The JEM Theatre in Harmony, much like other small theatres, is finding it harder to stay afloat in a world of ever-changing technology.

Movie theatres across the nation are going all-digital. A change that is forcing some small communities, like Harmony, to consider whether or not it's feasible to keep the theatre open. It's not just movie theatres that are taking a hit, the digital conversion has hit homeowners, entertainment stores and Hollywood.

Going digital, is considered by some theatre owners to be the largest change in the movie industry since silent movies, acquired sound.

"The technology we have right now is exactly the same as it was the day this theatre opened. It's old 35mm film. We're basically showing film the way Thomas Edison intended, one frame at a time," said JEM Owner, Paul Haugerud.

The JEM Theatre in downtown Harmony re-opened after a fire in the 1940's and has been the main attraction of nightlife for years. But, with the dawn of the digital era, and expensive upgrades, that may soon change.

"The theatre operates on a very thin line and we cannot support any more loans than what we already have, so to come up with the $75,000 dollars it will cost us to convert is just about impossible to do,"stated Haugerud.

Digital Conversion is necessary in order to stay open. Haugerud said 35mm film is a thing of the past.

"The films are very bulky to ship. There are usually between 5 to 8 reels of film and they weigh between 40-50 pounds a piece," explained Haugerud.

The new projector is meant to be a time and money saving effort, with the movies, being stored on hard drives. If the theatre closes it could send a ripple throughout the entire community.

"When people go to the movie, they stop at the Kwik Trip, they stop at the grocery store, our hardware store is open until 6:30, so you know they might try to kill 2 birds, with one stone when they come into town," said Julie Barrett, owner of Village Square Restaurant.

"If we take one more thing away it's going to hurt the community. I'm scared to death that mainstreet is going to look like Harmony in the 1980's when I was growing up, it was pretty bare," said Haugerud.

Birthday parties, youth groups and many other local events are held weekly at the JEM. The community said it'd be losing more than just a movie theater. The community has raised nearly $2,000 dollars for the conversion, leaving close to $73,000 dollars to raise in the next 6 months. At this point the theatre is hoping for a grant.

If you're interested in helping the cause, or just catching a flick, the theatre is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with show times at 7:30 PM. The price per ticket, is just $4 dollars.

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