New Castle News

Local News

July 3, 2013

Movie Memories Part 3: Technology takes movie theater projectionists from distinction to extinction.

NEW CASTLE — Chances are, Dave Kalata would be retired now anyway.

Kalata, a New Jersey resident and New Castle native, recently bade farewell to a three-decade career with the U.S. Postal Service. It was a path he began in 1984 after 10 years as a full-time movie theater projectionist in the Garden State, which had followed several seasons of honing that craft part time in the New Castle and Youngstown areas.

By the end of 2013, there may be no one to follow in Kalata’s footsteps of projecting 35 mm film onto a movie theater screen. Little by little, film and film projectors have been disappearing, replaced by digital equipment, with the film industry expected to go fully digital as soon as 2014.

Once it does, no more movies will be released on film.

While most megaplexes already have made the transition to digital, many smaller, single-screen movie houses may not survive the change, as digital equipment can run about $70,000 per screen. In 2012, Indiewire, an online resource for independent filmmakers, estimated that the digital conversion could shutter 1,000 smaller theaters across the country.

Already, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners, the decline is evident, with a total of 7,151 U.S. movie theaters in 1995 falling to 5,331 by 2011.

Locally, the changeover endangers theaters like the Reynolds Drive-in in Transfer or the Guthrie Theater in Grove City. The former has yet to open this summer because of its in ability “to secure a digital projector at an efficient price,” according to its Facebook page, while the latter may have to close if an ongoing fundraising campaign fails to produce enough money to buy digital equipment.

The single-screen Guthrie, which opened in 1927, is a throwback to the days of New Castle’s now-defunct Penn, Hi-Lander, Cinema and State theaters, where both Dave Kalata and his cousin, Dick, spent time as projectionists.

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