Small-town movie theaters threatened by shift to digital cinema
By Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times
Robert Neir and Sage O’Connell dance to bluegrass music in front of the Rio Theater in Monte Rio, Calif., as musicians practice before their concert to raise funds for new digital projection equipment. (Peter DaSilva, For the Los Angeles Times/ April 28, 2013)
MONTE RIO, Calif. — On the redwood-lined banks of the Russian River, dozens of local residents and tourists gathered in a grassy field on a hot Sunday afternoon, lining up to buy raffle tickets and $10 plates of barbecued chicken as a bluegrass group rehearsed a number for a Ramble at the Rio concert.
It might have been a church social or a school fundraising picnic. But this event was to raise money to save a centerpiece of the community: the Rio Theater.
Built from a World War II Quonset hut and adorned with murals from local artists, the Rio has been screening films in this town of about 1,200 people since 1950. Located in the wine country north of San Francisco off the Bohemian Highway, a few miles away from the Bodega Bay filming location of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “The Birds,” the Rio has survived fires, floods and multiple owners.
But it may not survive the latest threat — the digitization of the film industry. By the end of this year, Hollywood’s major studios will stop delivering film prints to movie theaters, replacing them with cheaper digital hard drives.