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WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 29, 2011, 08:15 AM

Technology changing movie industry for small town theaters

Perham, MN (WDAY TV) - With every big step forward in technology there is something lost that is nostalgic. Many small towns with movie theatre are about to feel just that.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

With every big step forward in technology there is something lost that is nostalgic. Many small towns with movie theatre are about to feel just that. In the coming months, the industry will be distributing your favorite movies in a digital format. Reels of film will be a thing of the past. Some small town theatres are not sure they can or want to make the costly change-over.

After 40 years in the business, Joe Wasche can thread a Hollywood film in his sleep. This is the brain right here, goes through here. There is some kind of movie magic watching this 83 year-old prep a film for his cinema screen.

Joe Wasche – Comet Theatre Owner: “Little red button back here and then it is in time.”

And the old Comet Theatre, housed in a building that went up in the 20's is a prized Perham main-street survivor.

Delores Wasche – Comet Theatre Owner: “75% of them we know them and if you are a stranger you won't be for long when I get done with you.”

“Crazy Love” in on the marquee tonight. You could eat off the shiny hard wood floors in the theatre, take nap in the new reclining seats.

Delores: “By the way, how is the popcorn?”

Joe's wife Delores makes a buttered bucketful of corn, serving generations of Otter Tail County movie goers.

Delores: “We got great grandchildren coming from the first customers.”

But after decades in the business, the Comet, the Wasches have a decision to make.....a digital dielemna.

The movie industry and theatres everywhere are going digital. Films like this will be part of Perham's past. But it could cost cozy, small town theatres tens of thousands of dollars to make the conversion.

Joe: ”It is ridiculous, it is all about money, all it is about, money.”

And the Wasches are not sure it can be done.

Joe: “We could do, but we ain't gonna do it, it is time for us to retire and we are not going to spend $89,000 in for a little screen that has sound that is no better than ours.”

And it is just not technology that is changing the industry. When Joe and Delores started, a ticket and a bucket of buttered popcorn were 50 cents each.

The Wasches helped save the Comet from destruction 40 years ago. Tonight, the couple is hoping their screen does not go silent. They are not ready for their curtain call yet.

Delores: “We are trying to give back to our community what they have given us.”

And no wonder, the town of Perham loves the Comet. Admission tonight is $4. And you can still get 25 cent candy.

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