Walking into the projection booth of the 5 DRIVE IN reels of film, cans of WD-40 and specialty tools litter the workspace. Projectors hum comfortably while 35mm film flaps through the pulleys and onto giant platters. Scissors, tape and splicing mechanisms sit amid clippings of film at a nearby desk.
But soon, this will all be gone. This is the last day the 5 Drive in is showing film. By press time, all the film projectors will have been replaced by digital projectors, screening content from hard drives.
The conversion from film to digital projection is part of a nationwide trend. Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and Paramount all began delivering movies on digital hard drives years ago, slowly phasing out bulky, heavy film containers and their high shipping costs.
“When the three major studios went digital, it was only a matter of time until they stopped shipping prints altogether. Studios still send film prints to theaters that haven’t upgraded yet, but most everyone agrees that it’s only a matter of time before they stop making film entirely, with some estimates as soon as three years from now.
But environmentally, digital projection makes sense. A two-hour movie requires about 11,000 feet of film—film that’s created using dwindling silver and oil resources. Recycling the film requires a complicated process that few studios use. Hard drives, while using more heavy metals than film, can hold new content and are recycled more easily, though they’re not as easily repaired if something goes awry.
Economically, the shift is much more favorable for the studios. To produce an 80-minute movie on film, it costs the studio between $1,500 and $2,500, whereas a hard drive costs a fraction of that. Shipping costs are also significantly lowered. For a theater, however, implementing the digital apparatus can cost up to $150,000. That could leave smaller one-screen theaters struggling if and when studios abandon film altogether.
Admittedly, though, film has its complications.
Digital does not subject to fading, scratching and a more more stable image. In theory the resolution is much higher than a film projection print too.
Lets Face the Facts DIGITAL is Incredible but in our next story we will get deeper into the past of the film reel and History….to Be continue
Enjoy a few picks of the nostalgic medium of film projection: