FAIRMONT - Over the past year, Fairmont's movie theater has had more than its share of ups and downs, and it looks like this stage of the story won't have a happy ending.
Dan Blaalid, proprietor of Five Lakes Cinema, announced Thursday that the venue he purchased last September will be closing at the end of the month.
Blaalid has faced an uphill battle from the start, when he took over operations last fall to prevent the theater from closing. Its previous manager, Evergreen Entertainment, was evicted by the building's landlord the summer of 2011 for failing to pay rent. With Blaalid in charge, he cleaned up the building, dropped admission prices, and allowed patrons to pay with credit or debit cards - three frequent complaints about the facility in the past.
Then, this March, Blaalid confirmed the venue was again in danger of shutting down, in response to movie studios' transition from 35mm film to digital copies. The switch might save Hollywood big bucks in distribution costs, but it's an expensive upgrade for theaters, especially in small towns like Fairmont.
To upgrade five projectors would cost about $400,000. Before admitting defeat, Blaalid had been working diligently to secure the financing, including asking for local input and local donations - an approach that did work for Sherburn's nonprofit movie theater.
"With the whole cost of the upgrade, and what it would cost for the loan, and the timing for us to get everything done, we decided we couldn't do it, so we'll be closing at the end of this month," Blaalid said.
That doesn't mean he's giving up, though.
"I'm already in talks with other facilities to go somewhere else," he said. "... I'm still working on details. So on the positive side, we'd try to keep a theater in Fairmont; however, it would take time to make negotiations and find a location and get things done."
Blaalid welcomes suggestions, questions or comments at his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
"I've been very proud of what I've achieved," he said. "Not too many people could have kept it going as long as what I've done. ... We had it going on the right track; it's just Hollywood is forcing this movie change, and it's just too much."