Kewanee Movie Theater Goes Digital - FOX 18 Quad Cities News and Weather

Kewanee Movie Theater Goes Digital

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Movie theaters across the country are facing a tough decision these days: Go digital or possibly close their doors forever.

Next year, many movie distributors will stop making 35 millimeter films, offering only digital movies instead.

The change comes with a big price tag for small theaters like the one in Kewanee.

It can cost a theater anywhere from $50 to $70 thousand dollars per screen to make the switch that would allow them to keep showing new movies.

For the Wanee Theater in Kewanee, which just made the switch to digital this weekend, the change cost more than $100,000.

The owners say it took them about a year to get a loan for that kind of money from a local bank, but it was well worth it to keep the 1946 theater open for business in the community.

Getting movies on film reels this fall is already becoming a struggle for theater owners, and next year it will be nearly impossible.

Wanee Theater owners Bud and Katie Johnson, and their customers, say they're lucky the theater won't have to close. "People in Kewanee and the surrounding areas have been very faithful to us. And we try to maintain a family atmosphere so they feel comfortable coming, and so they'll support us. And as long as they support us, we'll keep trying to do what we do," Bud Johnson said.

"Little down-home businesses are more like families in a town like ours. Everybody - most people - know everybody. And most people who know Bud and Katie appreciate them very much," said Marlene Peed, a frequent customer at the Wanee Theater.

And, although going digital is expensive, the movie-goers and theater owners say it has its benefits.

The projection equipment should require less maintenance and produce better sound and picture quality.

The National Association of Theater Owners says about 90 percent of the more than 5,000 theaters in the country have made the pricey digital switch.

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