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Death of Independent Movie Theaters

January 5, 2013

Utica Observer-Dispatch: “Uptown strives to survive without newly released movies” by Sara Tracey is about a small 85 year old independent movie theater in upstate New York:

The picture on the silver screen of the first movie house in the city is dimming to nearly nothing. The Uptown Theatre on Genesee Street no longer is showing 35mm films…

The theater cannot afford a $70,000 digital projector and cannot compete with the major megaplexes.

Tangentially, remember Roger Ebert’s article from Nov 2011 “The sudden death of film“:

New 35mm movie projectors are no longer manufactured

Before that Ebert wrote in May 2011 “The dying of the light“:

Digital projectors have been force-fed to theaters by an industry hungry for the premium prices it can charge for 3D films. As I’ve been arguing for a long time, this amounts to charging you more for an inferior picture. The winners are the manufacturers of the expensive machines, and the film distributors. The hapless theaters still depend on concession sales to such a degree that a modern American theater can be described as a value-added popcorn stand.

In Utica, the Uptown Theater is currently owned by Tracey Mills, a paralegal by day, who needs her paycheck, a volunteer staff and substantial community support to run the theater. But new release movies are no longer profitable on the “handful of audience members in the seats”. According to the Utica Observer article: “On Jan. 1, Mills laid off two full-time staff members and three security personnel.” And:

In the past two years, Mills renovated the theater and uncovered the molding to the original stage. The theater has hosted zombie walks, LGBT-friendly movie nights and concerts. Mills said the venue is available to host events, and said she hopes to partner with booking agencies or a theater company in the future.

Note this association of zombie walks and LGBT-friendly. Recall Zombie Pride and the relationship of zombies to self-expression and outsider politics.

Also regarding upstate NY recall Zombie Buffalo – “dawn of the dead city”.

Nevertheless, the article concludes with some small hope for Uptown Theater:

a similar situation with the Westcott Theater in Syracuse. The business was one of last movie houses in that city, but transformed to bring in live music and bands in 2008.

Maybe The Zombies can include the venue in their upcoming North American tour (although, sadly, it does not appear they are coming to New York). ZombieLaw wrote about this 1960’s band last June in “The Zombies are your Daddy” which also relates to yesterday’s rebuttal of GeekDad.

Let’s conclude with more from Ebert:

For me, seeing a movie in a real theater with a real audience is an inescapable part of the experience. I watch as many movies on TV as most people, and they’re okay that way, but when a movie is on fire I want to sense the audience burning. To be carried along in the dark on a wave of laughter of tears is exhilarating.


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