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October 06. 2013 8:56PM

Final act for film at Wilton's Town Hall Theater as owner eyes going digital


Dennis Markaverich, owner of the Wilton Town Hall Theater, said loading film is a thing of the past and digital is the only way to go. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER PHOTO)

WILTON — For 101 years, the Town Hall Theater has been a popular spot for movie buffs, but to keep the business running, owner Dennis Markaverich needs to raise an estimated $150,000 to convert from film to digital, and local residents are helping out.

While most megaplexes have already made the conversion from 35 mm film to digital projectors, small, independent theaters like Wilton Town Hall are struggling to find the resources to make the switch possible.

“It’s at a point now where it has to be done,” said Markaverich. “We have a gun to our head.”

Motion picture companies have been threatening to stop making film versions of popular movies because they cost so much to produce, Markaverich said. An average film runs around $10,000 as opposed to a digital version that costs around $150.

“When you have to make 6,000 copies of a movie, it really adds up for the studios,” he said, “so I understand why they want to be able to go the cheaper route.”

But the equipment to run digital is expensive. Markaverich estimates it will cost $50,000 to put a new projector in the smaller, 68-seat theater, and close to $100,000 for the equipment for the large, 312-seat theater. Instead of film, the movies are now hard drives that are sent to each theater. Once installed in the projector, which is wired to the Internet, the operator has to enter a key code in order to use the hard drive. There are some advantages, like not having to load film and having the system remotely monitored for problems, but if cable goes down in Wilton, it may be impossible to make the projector work, Markaverich said.

“There are advantages and disadvantages,” he said. “I’m old. I’ve been in this business since I was a kid, and there’s something I love about film. But I’m also looking forward to going digital.”

Markaverich owns the theater and the equipment to run it, but the space is leased from the town of Wilton, which makes securing a loan in order to modernize difficult, if not impossible. But the community is rallying around the theater owner.

“Some nice folks have donated various very kind and generous amounts of money for the project,” he said. “I’ve been very humbled by it.”

Markaverich has jars out on the counter at the refreshment stand, where he proudly sells popcorn made with real butter, and has been collecting small donations from folks. He’s also set up a fund at a local bank in order for folks to donate conveniently.

“We’re going to have to do the conversion or it’s going to be ‘see you later, bye,’” said Markaverich. “People don’t want to see that happen, so they’ve been very supportive of me.”

Local businesses and residents have offered to host fundraisers for the project, but Markaverich said he’s been hesitant to take them up on the offer just yet.

“I want to have proposals and bids in place before I start any major fundraising efforts,” he said. “I want to be able to tell people exactly how much I need to raise, and I want to be accountable for every penny.”

Donations can be made to Wilton Town Hall Theater Digital Conversion Fund at any TD Bank, or by mail to TD Bank, PO Box 150, Wilton, NH 03086.nfoster@newstote.com


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