(A film projector at Movies of Delray)
If 2012 was the year all of the major chain multiplexes converted to complete digital projection — if they hadn’t already — then 2013 was the year the small mom-and-pop theaters followed suit.
With many distributors now declining to strike 35mm prints, the message to local theaters this past year was clear: Convert or die. In South Florida, a few of these vintage theaters did shutter, including the Delray Square Cinema and the Cineluxe 6 in North Miami. Others bit the cost bullet — or the nostalgia bullet, whichever way you want to look at it — and updated their technology to full digital projection, including Movies at Wellington, the Classic Gateway Theatre in Fort Lauderdale, the Weston 8 Cinema, and the the Last Picture Show at Tamarac 5.
Last Friday, Movies of Delray, one of the final remaining cinemas to still project on 35mm, became the latest local theater to transfer to digital projection (see picture below). General manager Rochelle Waters’ fondness for film kept her from converting earlier (and she’s still holding on to one film projector), but, she says, “Now that we have it in and it’s all set up, it looks great on the screen. It enhances the experience for the moviegoers. This technology is the future, and it’s what the moviegoers are looking for.”
As a purist for 35mm film, I’ve spent the past year driving 40 minutes from my home to see celluloid at Movies of Delray, because all the options in Broward and Dade counties have disappeared. I’m aware that I’m in the minority of moviegoers who know or care about this transition, which, by most accounts, is an improvement on film’s lingering problems. A clean, crisp digital image means that there will be no vertical lines jittering across the frame, no issues with reels entering the projector in the wrong order, no more instances in which a quarter of the frame will be out of focus — human error is virtually a thing of the past in cinema projection.
And I’ll admit: Digital projection has improved vastly since my earlier missives decreeing it as inferior technology. Digital images can now even simulate the grain of 35mm, retaining some of the analog “warmth” they initially lacked. But as a cinephilic Luddite who will forever miss the sound of a reel of film spooling from a projector and the comforting cue marks that appear like cigarette burns at the top right corner of the screen — indicating the end of a reel — forgive me if I’m still not embracing the inevitable with open arms. To me, film is and always will be those heavy canisters containing tiny images that, when run through a projector at 24 frames per second, create new worlds in front of our eyes.
I’m going to end this piece by listing the only theaters in the tri-county area that still project movies on film, so that nostalgists know where to turn. In both cases, film’s days are numbered, but for the time being you can view celluloid at:
Movies of Lake Worth (converting to digital in January): 7380 Lake Worth Road, 561/968-4545, moviesofdelray.com
Alco Capital Theaters (digital conversion is under discussion; no date set for conversion): 9764 S. Military Trail, Boynton Beach, 561/366-7500, alcotheaters.com
The following theaters have 35mm capabilities, but they only use them, on average, about as often as we see a lunar eclipse:
Bill Cosford Cinema at University of Miami: 5100 Brunson Drive, Coral Gables; 305/284-4861, cosfordcinema.com
The Coral Gables Art Cinema: 260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; 786/385-6989, gablescinema.com
The Tower Theatre (currently closed for refurbishing): 1508 S.W. Eighth St., Miami; 305/643-8706, towertheatermiami.com