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Digital age prompting closure of base theaters

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 20, 2013 at 6:34 pm •  Published: January 20, 2013
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"The digital age has certainly made it easier to stay home and get content delivered directly to one's own living room," he said. "In addition, the theater business has become more competitive with multiplex and IMAX theaters in many locations adjacent to military installations.

Of the theaters making the conversion to the digital format, about 26 are in the U.S. and about 34 are overseas for a total cost of about $7.4 million, Anstey said.

Camp Zama in Japan, Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany, Camp Arifjan in Kuwait and Fort Hood in Texas are the first four to make the jump, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2013, Anstey said.

David Burnett, force support squadron commander for the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth, said base officials are working to ensure other movie options, such as more DVD kiosks and an arrangement with Carmike Cinemas in Rapid City for a military discount.

He said the theater has been an important spot for on-base families, especially those living in the dorms.

"It gives them an outlet," Burnett said. "It gives them something to do."

Ron Reynolds, who was stationed on the base years ago, has served as the theater's projectionist for more than a decade.

He loads a reel on one of the twin projectors before briefly turning down the upstairs room's speaker to make sure the sound is at its best.

"Projectionist is one of the greatest part-time jobs you'll ever have," said Reynolds, 49. "Sadly, all good things must come to an end."

Reynolds' son, 29-year-old Tyler Murphy, remembers seeing "Titanic" at Ellsworth as a teenager.

"This is a little bit of a nostalgic type of moment," said Murphy, now a teacher at Sturgis Brown High School. "It's never going to be the same anymore."

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