The Neon in downtown Dayton is a locally owned and operated, independent movie theater that has been Dayton’s sole provider of new independent films for 25 years.
Recently though, The Neon, which prided itself on its continued use of 35 mm film in its screenings, was forced into making the transition from 35 mm to digital.
“I started working at the Neon 11 years ago,” Neon manager Jonathan McNeal said. “I arrived around the time we made the transition from one to two screens.”
McNeal graduated from Wright State University with a bachelor’s degree from the Motion Picture Production Program in 2001.
“It became increasingly hard for us to get 35 mm versions of movies, and less than a year ago FOX Searchlight contacted us stating that they weren’t going to distribute 35 mm reels anymore,” McNeal said. “We’re being forced to make the transition.”
The Neon isn’t the only theater this is happening to. An article published in February this past year on IndieWire.com, a website that specializes in reviews and updates on independent movies, stated the high price of the switch from 35 mm to digital could cause the closure of “up to 10,000 screens” or roughly 20 percent of the theaters in North America, according to the National Association of Theater Owners.
Independent theater owners can either keep the 35 mm projector they have and, as a result, go out of business due to the lack of films available, or they can pay a large sum to buy a new projector.
“We need to be able to play the popular independent films or we’ll never stay in business and with the old equipment, they aren’t allowing us to do that anymore so we have to make the change,” McNeal said. “The new equipment costs about $140,000, leaving us about $25,000 short of where we need to be.”
A new 35 mm projector, by comparison, costs around $20,000 prior to the digital transition.
As a response to the economic discrepancy, The Neon is hosting a screening of the independent film “Amelie” on Oct. 14 to raise money for the new projector. The screening will feature appetizers provided by local restaurants Meadowlark, Coco’s Bistro and Roost. The two types of tickets available are The Indie Lover for $100, which includes one alcoholic beverage, and The Executive Producer for $150 which includes unlimited beer and wine, as well as an entry into a drawing for the naming rights of the new auditorium.
Later this month, The Neon will also host the three-day Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender festival, occurring from Sept. 28-30 to celebrate the gay and lesbian community. The LGBT festival features The Neon’s top picks out of over 100 movie submissions.
The Neon is located at located at 130 E. 5th St. For more information on the Neon, visit neonmovies.com.