The "Keep Indie Visible" program is launching a new campaign to help independent theaters successfully transition to (read: survive) the industry-wide move to digital projection. By the end of 2013, Hollywood will only distribute films in specific digital formats — but the staggering cost for state-of-the-art digital projectors (from $65K to $100K) is enough to sink many independent and arthouse cinemas.
"Keep Indie Visible" is creating a nationwide, hybrid funding model that consists of private equity and crowdfunding, and allows moviegoers to support the financing of digital equipment for their local independent theaters. The funding will also go toward indie filmmakers facing steep costs of theatrical distribution for their work, also having to comply with the new projection standards. It's essentially operating as a Kickstarter for those facing an adapt-or-die situation in the digital transition.
The KIV team is first focusing on 50 theaters across 50 states; The Screen in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale, Colorado and the Art Theatre in Hobart, Indiana have all joined the cause. To augment the private equity funding base, supporters can go here to pitch in for the crowdfunding.
Projects like this are essential for the preservation of art-house cinemas that give U.S. cities such distinctive cultural flavor, and screen films (classic, foreign, indie, obscure) that are almost never seen in commercial theaters. It also shows an admirable embrace of the transition to digital, as opposed to the trendier but near-sighted pitting of digital against 35mm. Remember: the theaters receiving this funding will still keep 35mm projectors, and remain committed to screening gorgeous prints when they can. Projects like KIV help to give small cinemas more options, so that they can screen a wide variety of beautiful formats, be it a stunning DCP or a pristine 35mm print.