Theater owner hopes college town turns digital

2001 is the turning point year for digital cinema, says Dan Klusmann, owner of the Audian and Cordova Movie Theaters in Pullman, Wash. "This is the year [that] it's tipping over into inevitability," says the small exhibitor, who writes a newsletter for his industry, Independent Marketing Edge.

Mr. Klusmann's screens are in a college town (Washington State University), and he can't wait for what he considers the next stage of moviegoing. "We'll be able to get first-run movies at exactly the same time as the big-city theaters," he says. People won't have to drive hours to the big cities for films anymore. With digital transmission, we'll have exactly the same high quality."

He points to the students in his town and says the college-age population is a perfect target audience for the "extras" that digital promises to bring: sports and concert events.

"Just think, if there was a Sting concert in London, these kids know they'll never get over there to see it," Klusmann says. "But if I can put it in my theater, everybody wants to go to a concert they know they'd never see otherwise." The neat thing, he says, unselfconsciously mimicking a college student, "is the potential. It's endless."

While he says the attitude among small theater owners is wait-and-see, with this new level of commitment from studios and digital manufacturers, the innovations needed to bring prices down and quality up will come much more quickly.

"When you know change is coming," he says, "you're anxious to solve questions."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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