Springfield, Mo. -- Heading to the movies is a popular pastime during the holidays. But a landmark change in the film industry is threatening to put some locally-owned theaters out of business. Places like Springfield's Moxie Cinema have just days to pay for the digital transition.
"I would compare it to the trans to talkies from silent film. This is significant," said Mike Stevens, the executive director of the Moxie Cinema, an independent non-profit move theater in downtown Springfield.
By the end of 2012, most major studios will stop producing old-fashioned film, meaning theaters are on a tight timeline to convert. At the Moxie, they started fundraising for the conversion in August.
"We're in the middle of the country, and I love springfield, but this is a way to bring a lot of different cultures and flavors and creative energy to a town that otherwise wouldn't have come to town," Stevens said of the theater.
The Moxie is Springfield's only non-profit, independent movie house, bringing in many foreign films, limited releases, and documentaries. But it is not the only theater that has to fund the costly conversion.
"Digital gives you the same playback the first time as the 100th time," said Chris Richardson, the manager of the Palace Theatre in Springfield.
Moviegoers may have already noticed a crisper picture and better sound at some of the bigger, for-profit theaters. Similar to the Moxie, the Palace gets many movies on the second run.
"By the time it got to us it had been played so many times that there were green lines or the film had been damaged it had broken," Richardson said.
The Palace is owned by Warren Theaters. The company converted eight screens at its Springfield theater earlier in the month. That means they will be able to stay open for 2013.
"I think for me, it's (film) something I've dealt with so long, I knew it in and out, and so it's a learning process for this new technology," Richardson said.
As for the Moxie, Stevens said so far they have raised $80,000. That is enough to convert just one of the two screens.
"It means you get half the movies that we would've shown, and the movies that we show here are not shown elsewhere usuallly," Stevens said.
Stevens said three anonymous donors have stepped up to help the Moxie, offering to match the money raised between now and the end of the year. Since the theater is a non-profit organization, donations are tax deductible.