Kickstarter to buy a digital projector for the oldest cinema in Washington State

Jack sez, "The Blue Mouse Theatre in Tacoma has been operating since 1923. Unfortunately, in order to continue operating they need to buy a digital projector. They've started a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of preserving this landmark theater."

Tacoma Neighborhoods Together has partnered with us to Help preserve this historic Icon of the Proctor District and your contribution will be tax deductible

Tacoma Neighborhoods Together is the non-profit, 501(c)3 organization of the Cross District Association. It was formed to support the enhancement and beautification of Tacoma's core neighborhood centers, its neighborhood business districts. It emphasizes that the people who live and work in the neighborhoods are the ones who can best identify ways that can help to make Tacoma a more livable community. From these collective voices the direction for Tacoma Neighborhoods Together is set.

Help Save The Blue Mouse Theatre (Thanks, Jack!


  1. “We have been advised that after 2013 there will no longer be 35mm films made. Every movie house in the nation will have to go digital or close its doors.”

    I’m a bit incredulous. I can possibly believe that this is something the studios might force for US distribution, but no longer producing movies for film projection that soon is just going to be untenable when it comes to the global scale.

    1. Read this article in The Atlantic to fully understand how the move towards digital will affect smaller repertory theaters.  That’s the issue.

  2. I looked into this a little bit when our local Drive-In made the same call to be “saved”.  The switch is happening, and it’s been coming for about five years.  The major cost savings are for the distributor (they just ship hard drives instead of movie reels) but the major costs are on the theatres.  The cost of shipping films was insanely high so there was very strong incentive.

    Recognizing this, the distributors instituted a cost-sharing plan, where the theatres could buy digital projectors on credit, and pay it back with every film they showed.  IIRC, they split the cost savings 50/50 with the distributors – the theatres’ chunk went to pay back on the projectors.  The idea is that over time, the theatres get their projectors for almost free and everybody is better off.

    The rub for the theatres that now need “saving” is that the program’s last two years were 2011 and 2012, being complete near the start of 2013.  So any theatres that didn’t participate are now stuck with the full cost of a digital system ($40-$70K for a full system) if they want to continue to show new films.

    I suspect that there may be some theatres that just didn’t have enough volume to make the subsidized plan pay off.  But they also knew what was coming and the time to start raising money was in 2008.  Poor management seems to be highly correlated with being in this predicament.

    I elected not to contribute to the local campaign.  There’s a strong market and I think it’ll be better under new management.  Giving a poor management team a new expensive asset can only prolong the inevitable.  Perhaps it doesn’t apply in this case, but this is the general situation.

    1. The cost sharing plan was in play until this summer. Theaters who went with that system lose the ability to choose their own programming. It’s extremely difficult to fundraise for a for-profit business, let alone one without an imminent threat.

  3. I think it’s interesting that the Kickstarter model works just as well, if not better for charitable donations. People want to know that their dollars are going to do some good, tax deduction or not. It’s more appealing to me than the old thermometer chart, seeing the charity drive edge towards its goal – it’s much better to know that they are only going to take my money if they can actually achieve the goal.

  4. I live in Tacoma and while I don’t know about the specifics of some of the above comments (end of 35 mm film from studios) I can speak to the community feeling the Blue Mouse Theater provides.  They don’t play first run movies.  They’re the type of place that plays popular movies 3-6 months old, for $3-$5, not the full price most multiplexes charge.  They also show free movies for kids on holidays and as mentioned Rocky Horror which I’m sure is not raking in the dough, but which they’ve committed to keeping going.   It’s a small theater (single screen) in a nice little area of Tacoma and I’m going to contribute because I want to see it kept going.

  5. Lousy. Digital projection is more than what it sounds like. It isn’t just that it’s easier to ship around hard drives, it’s just the next step in distribution goals. The final step is omitting shipping altogether, and simply streaming movies to theaters from the source at times of the distributor’s choosing. One day the studio will decide where, what time of day, how many times of day, and (an almost forgotten trick from long ago) which particular EDIT of the films gets shown depending on location. For example, films streamed to Utah have the films sanitized of scenes objectionable to Mormons. Individual theaters used to do this kind of slash edition to rented reels of film long ago, but now the process is modernized.

    Streaming is also just another way to dwindle the image quality down further. Theaters already crank down the lighting power of the projector by up to 50% to save money on electricity. Now they can crank down the image quality, too.

    Even so-called “4K digital quality” is nowhere near as beautiful and tight as actual film. Eventually I think going to the movies won’t be much better than watching Youtube videos on a big screen home television.

    If you ever get the chance, try to see a movie with old carbon arc projectors and nitrate film. It’s astounding to see the difference. Older movie palaces will sometimes do a yearly special showing.

    From then to now has been all downhill for the audience.

    1. Hear, hear.

      I watched the rise of digital projection with apprehension, and my fears were realized. Digital videos simply aren’t capable of the quality of film, no matter how many 3-D glasses the theaters hand out.
      Sadly, the average moviegoer doesn’t care about picture quality, they just want to watch things explode or see cartoon animals make fart jokes. Every advancement in cinema history until now has improved the movie-going experience. This is the first time things have gone the other direction.

      At the end of the day, though, studios are going to go with whatever makes the most money, and as long as audiences don’t care what kind of crap they’re being fed, “good enough” digital projectors will be the norm. Eventually, no one will be around who remembers what film looked like, and that will be that.

    2. This. Anyone who sincerely advocates for digital film needs to come to Seattle during Cinerama’s next 70mm film festival. I will buy your ticket and you will apologize to me afterward.

    3. As someone who used to sit in the fourth row at the theater, I hate digital.  From that distance, digital’s poor quality is very evident.  It’s like watching oatmeal boiling.

  6. I have recently helped start a campaign on Indiegogo to save the Sun Theatre in my hometown of Williamston, Michigan.

    It is terrible that Hollywood profits are placing communities at risk of losing these small business that provide so much value. We have reached about 10% of the $80,000 goal and the very real possibility that we won’t be able to raise enough funds truly scares me.

  7. I used to work in a 2nd run theater.  It is a pain to get all that film in cans, and splice it back together and load it on the projector.  Also it gets pretty beat up by the time we got it.    Someone actually stole the topless scene from our copy of Forest Gump.    

    Today,  our local film festival is also all digital because many indies never get put on film.

    For a theater like this,  Digital makes more sense.  

  8. I’ve seen plenty of beat up release prints beat to shit by “projectionists.” Being a real projectionist requires skill, stamina, attention, and interest in the job. At least, it did before it was relegated to unskilled kids who didn’t know the first thing about proper film handling.

    At some level, I can see that no one would give a shit about Forest Gump or an Adam Sandler title, but on the other hand there is something about doing one’s job with respect which transcends the title itself.

    I don’t buy the indie film festival argument for small theaters because nearly all indie/local film is shot digitally and then projected digitally via a computer or mobile data source through a low quality Powerpoint-worthy projector. I doubt very much low-budget indie or film school material is shot at 4K and needs to projected through a digital projector.

    If you want an example of even shittier projection just stop by the Living Room Theater in Portland, Oregon and watch the bumblefuck that is projected DVDs.

  9. A huge chunk of indie stuff is being shot on Red cameras these days. In many ways, the Indie set has made the transition faster than mainstream Hollywood.

    Think about it this way. A typical indie production is shot over a couple weekends using borrowed equipment or equipment that people use for high end day jobs. So, none of the turn around or larger infrastructure issues that have prevented big productions from making the leap. If you are connected enough to get a good crew and cast togeather for your short film you are connected enough to get your hands on a Red 4k for a couple days.

    Plus there are now cameras like the new blackmagic 2.5k hitting the market. And thats a rough equivelent resolution to what even good film stock had once the duping and post processes were finished.

  10. In my town, in Baja California:
    1. Cine Anza became a furniture store.
    2. Cine Maya became a porno theater.
    3. Cine California 70 re-opened as a Mega-Church concept… thingy.
    4. Cine Mexico became a thrift store, “everything for a buck”.
    5. Cine Ensenada, later Cine Vaquero, became a discount clothing store.

    OK, many memories have been lost and NO new memories have been created, but… wait, there is no hope, at least not down that avenue. In my hometown.

  11. Hi, I’m typing this from inside the Downtown Independent Cinema in Los Angeles. I’m Jim, the founder and executive director of the Downtown Independent. hey. Last May we purchased a brand new DCI-Compliant digital projection system. It was really really expensive by indie cinema standards, to make it happen I reached out privately to friends and family to help cover the cost. 

    Fear not analog heads, our tiny projection booth still allowed us to retain our nearly new 35mm projector. Which hardly gets used anymore.  Mainly because as this article states, new releases are no longer available on 35mm. Add to that, we’ve seen so many beat up prints of 80’s and 90’s films we stopped requesting 35mm and found blu-ray or dvd’s to project for repertory stuff. We get one maybe two indie films a year on 35mm if that. We had one hollywood film come in on 35mm for a press screening. 
    For new movies it makes absolutely no sense to release on 35mm. Even if a movie was shot on 35mm(or even 65mm film) the editing and vfx and post production are all done digitally. Find me a post house that can do a 100% analog/optical editing and post process all the way to exhibition print and has done one feature length film in the last five years that way and I will give you movie tickets at Downtown Independent LA for a year. Fuck it, free tickets for life. That place doesn’t exist anymore. It’s like $250/minute to get the one or two “indie friendly” labs still around to make a shitty 35mm exhibition print. Technicolor or Fotochem will charge double or triple that. How much does a 300gig Hard Drive and free software cost?Don’t get me wrong, filming in 35mm or 65mm or whatever will never go away, just like MS Paint didn’t eliminate paintbrushes and paint. Filmmakers will still shoot film but the negatives will be scanned and then the film will be edited and composited and output digitally. The exhibition side needed to keep up so the DCI Specification was created. If you dig into the spec you’ll find it’s not VIDEO but a digital version of exactly how an analog film projector works. The analog film frame is merely swapped for a digital image that is flashed at 24 frames per second just like film. DCI compliant projection is not video. The engineers that created the DCI spec were engineers not accountants, they have created a very robust method of distributing and exhibiting films in a manner that if done according to the spec will meet or exceed most analog systems. really. and it’s getting better. Did I mention the DCI spec is OPEN? There are dozens of apps now that filmmakers and cinemas like mine use to make digital content that can be played on any DCI system in the world. oh nice, standards…We’re still in the process of repaying that cost of “going digital” but it’s truly changed the way we do business and also thanks to us being in LA we’ve actually used this equipment to grow not only our business but other businesses have greatly benefitted as well. As some of the other comments stated, most indie filmmaking these days is done digitally and companies like RED and Black Magic are leading the way in democratizing filmmaking with extremely high quality but affordable camera equipment. LED lights are eliminating the need rent a huge generator for low-budget shoots and the post process can be done on a laptop if needed. We rely on rental business here in LA and there is talk of something of a renaissance of indie filmmaking that could keep small cinemas busy all over the country, but that won’t happen with 35mm projectors. So you’re some kid in Tacoma that shot her film on a 4K RED EPIC and the only place in town that can play the finished movie in 4K is the local megaplex. That’s gonna change soon. 11/30/2012 is days away.

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