For Small Theaters, the Digital Future Is Dark

Independent movie houses scramble to pay for expensive new gear
Hess fears his 250-seat cinema may not survive Photograph by Jason Reblando for Bloomberg Businessweek

When Sanford Hess started running a century-old movie theater two years ago, he knew Hollywood was replacing celluloid with digital files. But since the 250-seat venue in downtown Champaign, Ill., had already endured Betamax, VHS, Netflix, and a 15-year stretch showing porn, he figured it would survive this latest transition. Now he’s not so sure.

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