The Ritz Theatre
The practical end of 35mm film for movie distribution is happening sooner than expected. The major studios are cutting back on the number of 35mm prints made for each movie in a big way. Even the smaller studios are starting to release their movies in a digital format only. One of the most popular movies right now, “2016,” is only available to theatres with compliant digital projection systems. This is the reason it has not shown at The Ritz. “Hope Springs,” with Meryl Streep, had only seven 33mm prints made for the entire southern region. “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” from Disney and “Last Ounce of Courage” are only in digital or only a few 35mm prints were made.
The end of movies at The Ritz is now in sight. Only with a lot of financial help channeled through the Upson County Concerned Citizens Inc. (UC3) non-profit group, in the next few weeks, will The Ritz be able to continue showing movies. Large amounts are needed due to the short time left to act. A digital projector costing $70,000 has to be purchased in order to continue getting movies. The new digital movies being produced by the studios require a specific type of projector to provide the high quality pictures they want broadcast.
But the benefits of a digital projector will go far above just showing movies. Considerable alternative content is being made available, like concerts, Broadway shows, sports, and special movies. The projector will have the ability to show almost anything that has a picture. The quality of picture and sound will be improved, and the movie-going experience will become even more enjoyable.
We know times are tough for everyone, but ask you to help where you can before it’s too late. Many people ask why The Ritz cannot finance a projector out of its income like most other businesses would have to. I understand that question fully. To explain, small town historic theatres pay the same for movies and concession items as the larger, big city multiplexes. In a larger population, there are more people to see the movies. If two to three times as many people just came to The Ritz for their movie entertainment as currently do, that could generate enough money for the digital projection equipment.
Small town theatres are few and far between, and often only remain open because their owners love movies and want to preserve the local movie house for the community. Many people don’t realize that up to 90 percent of the ticket price goes directly to the studios in the form of film rental. On average, 60 percent is how it works. That means at The Ritz, out of the $6 admission, seven percent goes to sales tax and 60 percent goes to the studio. That leaves The Ritz with just over $2 per admission.
People ask, “Why not increase the admission charge up to what other theatres charge?” First, we don’t want to take any more money from our customers, and The Ritz would only get 35 cents out of every extra dollar charged. The Ritz also keeps its concession prices much lower other theatres and retains 50 percent after costs. Are concession prices too high? In all theatres, it’s the concession that subsidizes the admission cost. Will you pay $20 to get in, and then be able to get a drink for 50 cents? I don’t think so.
Going to the movies is still one of the cheapest forms of entertainment available outside the home. It’s really a bargain. Two hours sitting in a comfortable seat, in climate controlled surroundings, watching a multi-million dollar movie on a 40-foot wide screen. How long does a carnival ride last for a similar cost? How much does it cost to go to a professional sporting event or star-studded concert?
We came to Thomaston because of The Ritz, wanting to keep it open. The Ritz was in bad shape. We spent our savings and took out two loans to purchase The Ritz and bring it up to current standards. That included a new projector and sound system and screen, which we expected to last for many more years. With incredible utility bills, taxes, upgrades and constant maintenance, what money does come in is already spent. We have had the pleasure to be able to employ dozens of young people – and a few not so young – during the past 15 years. That we hope will continue, but…
Although 35mm film has been the standard for 100 years, its time is over and the studios will soon release all movies only in a digital format. The Ritz has been on the square for your entertainment for 85 years. Due to technology, this could be its last.