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Hettinger theater awarded grant

Terry Spratta, Hettinger Theatre manager, spins and cuts film to make one large reel Friday in Hettingr. The theater will be receiving new digital movie equipment by the end of the summer to comply with new studio regulations that would require all theaters to be able to play movies digitally within the next few years.

HETTINGER -- When the Walt Disney Company sent out letters informing theatre owners that unless changes in film format was completed, no more Disney movies would be sent to those them, Hettinger Theatre manager Terry Spratta knew it was time to take action.

"I got a letter a few years ago letting me know that Disney, in the next few years is going to stop using 35 millimeter film," Spratta said. "The letter said that if I didn't switch to a digital format, I couldn't receive their movies. That's when I started looking into it."

Disney as well as other studios, have been speaking of making 35 millimeter film obsolete within the next few years, he added.

The theater, which has been in operation for about seven years, has big spools and an older Christie projector. When films are selected, they come in six or seven smaller spools, and then are cut and spun into one giant reel for showing.

"It costs about 30 dollars to get them and 30 dollars to send them back in shipping," Spratta said.

Costs for a new system will be about $100,000 and will include a computerized movie showing system, which will allow Spratta to either receive movies on a hard drive that can be inserted into the system, or be downloaded from a server.

"For independent theaters, it's a little bit of a problem," Spratta said. "Theaters like Dickinson have corporate backing and can afford it. For your small independent theaters, that's going to be a hard thing to raise that money."

Spratta said through community support, he was able to raise about $10,000. The rest of the money needed came through a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, for about $99,000.

"An economic development officer that was here told me about this grant," Spratta said. "Ed Gold from Adams County Development Corporation did all the applying, and I gave him all the information. A letter was written that explained why we wanted to do this and we went from there."

Gold said losing a movie theater in a small town can be detrimental.

"It plays an important roll," Gold said. "It's one of the focal points of the town. It could devastate a town. Having this grant keep the movie theater going is rewarding to the whole community."

The money will go through Adams County Development and then will go toward the theater to help purchase the new equipment, which Spratta said he hopes to have completed by the end of the summer.

The theater has been community supported from the beginning, Spratta said, when the costs to buy the building were locally fundraised.

"We told them (the community) about this, about the letters from Disney," Spratta said. "We received quite a few large donations and memorials. The public wanted to make sure the theater stayed."

Although there will be no changes t the cost of tickets to see movies in Hettinger, Spratta said there will be a few noticeable changes.

"The quality of film will be clearer," Spratta said. "Our sound system is still pretty new so we should be able to handle the digital sound as well. Some theaters with older systems can't handle the new digital sound."

Cine 3 move theater in Dickinson Playhouse Theatre in Mott declined to comment on their movie showing systems.

"We've gotten some smaller grants before, but nothing this large," Gold said. "I've gotten some really positive feedback about it so far."