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Indian Lake Theater joins the digital revolution

Vincent Smith, Indian Lake Theater’s projectionist, mans the controls of new digital projection technology.

Vincent Smith, Indian Lake Theater’s projectionist, mans the controls of new digital projection technology. Photo by Bill Quinlivan.

— There are few who will argue with the definition of the Indian Lake Theater being “the cultural cornerstone of the community,” as proclaimed by the theater’s business manager Frances Armstrong.

“Digitization was a necessary step to keeping our cornerstone alive,” he said.

In fact, the restoration of the Indian Lake Theater is seen as the spark that has ignited the continued effort to revitalize and enrich the town and surrounding community.

Originally built as a movie house in 1938, the theater showed films for nearly seven decades before closing. In spring 2007, a local volunteer organization completed its purchase of Indian Lake’s 250-seat Main Street Theater. Their vision was to show films and stage theatrical and other productions year-round for the 1,400 residents of the community. It reopened in 2008.

Certainly, there was the respect for the past that the restoration of the Theater represented. But recent moves by the film industry made it clear that the Indian Lake Theater could not operate while relying on the projection technology of the past. The industry was moving to distribution of digitized “films” to capitalize on current technology to benefit their bottom line.

The plain truth is that the film industry has little operational or financial incentive to care about a single screen, small community theater, so the Indian Lake community decided their theater was too precious to lose and that if you can’t beat them, you better join them.

In 2012, the Indian Lake Theater became part of the “Go Digital or Go Dark” campaign spearheaded by the Adirondack North Country Association, with a goal of raising thousands of dollars to switch from film to digital projectors by the end of 2013 or shut down. It joined the movement with nine other theaters in the region: the Hollywood, Au Sable Forks; the Palace, Lake Placid; Ogdensburg Cinema, Ogdensburg; the Strand, Old Forge; the Strand, Schroon Lake; the Strand, Plattsburgh; the Glen Drive-In, Queensbury; Cinematheque, South Glens Falls; and the State, Tupper Lake.

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