It’s show time in the projection booth of the Parkway Discount Theater in Warner Robins.
Second run blockbusters, sometimes only weeks past their top grossing prime, snake around the room on 35 mm film. Superheroes and giant robots flicker and bounce on the screens below.
Alicia Bowers manages this theater. With 10 years in the business, she’s worked with both digital and film.
"When we first got rid of film it was kind of nostalgic to come back to it, but now it’s like ‘This is a lot of work’," Bowers said.
A lot of work--as in splicing a film together from multiple reels and moving platter sized spools so wide they take two people to lift into place. A digital blockbuster is delivered in a one pound hard drive you can hold in your hand.
But Bowers’ second run with film projection is coming to an end. The Parkway Discount Cinema is closing rather than convert to digital projection.
Bill Stembler is the CEO of the Georgia Theater Company, which owns the Parkway. When he was a kid, the family business was in perhaps the most storied theatre in Georgia.
"I Had my first date with my wife at the Fox Theater. And remember going to see Creature from the Black Lagoon with my Father on my tenth birthday. I’m now 67. It was a big treat," Stembler said.
Stembler loves movies and embraces the shift to digital. But it’s expensive.
"It’s questionable whether you could recover your investment. It’s something like $50-$70 thousand a screen to convert to digital," he said.