With the releases of 3D documentaries "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" and "Pina," and an increasing number of auteurs considering the format, the question inevitably arises: Can arthouse theaters accomodate the expensive new digital projectors, and if they can't, will they be further left in the dark as the industry propels forward? There's a story in Variety today (behind the paywall) that addresses this issue, which I think is a worthy one to explore. Shouldn't independent theaters be able to benefit from higher ticket prices and a new wave of 3D art projects?
Werner Herzog's "Dreams" was the number one-grossing doc of 2011, with much of those sales, I suspect, taken from multiplexes with an extra screen for indie fare. According to Variety, the film played eight weeks at the Arclight in Hollywood, where it showed on the ExpanD/"active" glasses platform, which, unlike the RealD format, does not require a silver screen.
"This has put a squeeze on arthouses like Laemmle Theaters," the largest indie chain in Southern California, reports the story. None of the seven new Laemmle screens in North Hollywood are 3D-enabled. Landmark, Laemmle's big competitor, is also not equipped for 3D. Corporate multilpexes have once again found a way to quash their indie competitiors.
Greg Laemmle, president of Laemmle Theaters, told Variety it would take them over a year to recoup their investment in 3D equipment.
Variety estmates it costs $150,000 for a 3D enabled digital projector, and an additional $50,000-$75,000 for server and silver-screen add-ons.
With many arthouses across the country being non-profits, barely scraping by on the support of their local communities, such costs are surely prohibitive.