I went to see “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” last night at Cinema Arts Centre, a local Long Island theater. It was great. Considering the book had a profound impact on me in 8th grade, I had been awaiting the film version for many years, anticipating how they’d portray Sam. Luckily, Emma Watson was the prime choice for the role. She’s without a doubt one of the most attractive women in movies right now, next to Anna Paquin. She’s beautiful. But anyway, aside from the fact that the movie held up to my expectations and it took me back to an adolescent understanding of friends and sex and school, something alarming was brought to my attention in that theater.
    The great thing about Cinema Arts Centre is that they are dependent on public funding to help them survive. This is also the horrible thing about Cinema Arts Centre. So, they usually have somebody on the staff speak in front of the crowd before the movie begins, informing the audience of upcoming events that will be held at the theater. Considering it is a venue brought to you (as far as I’m aware), by moviegoers and people who are generous enough to donate funds, money can become an issue. And here is where the issue comes into play. A woman spoke to us before the movie began about future events and speakers and before her talk was over, she informed the audience that by mid-2013, they must raise 200,000 dollars in order to keep up with the technological advancements of the ever-growing and simultaneously ever-fading film industry. By the middle of next year, there will be no more film stock. Film stock will be obsolete. There may be some museums and archives that have film projectors and film reels, but other than that, every piece of machinery in theaters will be digital. In most cases, these projectors will be replaced by hard drives. The digital world is truly taking over. I knew it was slowly coming through, tearing apart the memories of filmgoers who have been going to movies from the birth of film up until about 10 years ago, but I didn’t expect it to come to this point so soon. The movie-going experience as we know it will be forever changed. The little black dots on the screen, the ovular yellow circle with black inside on the top right corner that periodically shows itself, the sheer organic quality of a film will be forgotten and lost in the throws of the digital era.
    “What does this mean?” you might ask. Better yet, “who cares?”, you might ask. What this means is that the film industry will no longer be the film industry. It will be the video business. The films of Von Sternberg, Ford, Huston, Curtiz, Hitchcock and even Woody Allen will be simply stored in film archives, never to be projected again on a film stock projector. Now, let’s not get crazy. It’s true, this kind of conversion has been going on for years and there are graduate programs, though few and far between that do offer degrees in  film preservation. But, this is an industry change. It is universal. Projectionists can now officially be replaced by anybody or even robots. Directors will be forced to make decisions based on the fact that 70 millimeter prints will no longer be available for public viewing. There will no longer be people taking film stock in big circular containers back and forth from factories and studios to theaters. Millions of theaters world-wide will go out of business because they cannot afford to replace all of their mechanical equipment with digital projectors and hard drive storage units. The movies themselves will be artificial. They will never look like film. They will look fake. But worst of all, the people that once cherished and loved film for what it was are forced to face the reality that whatever the future holds will never possibly live up to their memories of going to the movies and seeing the cinematography of Sven Nykvist in the way he had intended it to be. Many of the Woody Allen films of the 1980’s will be given over to libraries and museums to be left on shelves and studied from time to time by the few nerdy Library Science students who understand the cultural significance of film. There will be no more Carlo Di Palmas or Gordon Willis's. Those guys will be in the dark (no pun intended). The lighting used to make John Cusack look distinguished in “Shadows and Fog” will no longer exist. The gritty and natural texture in “Through a Glass Darkly” will only be a memory.
    If we ever see these films in theaters again, they will be projected digitally; in a way they were never intended for. Digital viewing was not a thought for Bergman or even Lumet, at least not in the 1960s. Seeing these films projected on digital projectors in digital screenings was never supposed to happen. It takes away from the beauty of the films and the intention of their makers. The way we understand movies is changing. And changing good (not for better). We went from people having the job of cutting the film, to delivering the film, to projecting the film and now these jobs and the film that makes them unique and important falls by the wayside. The film industry spent many years trying to prove itself as a meaningful and cultural art form. And now, it looks like we are digitalizing our way back to the basics, back to a time when film was considered a joke, a mystical and magical joke that held no potential. Now we can have a robot cut the film, send the film and project the film. There is nothing unique about this. It is a dead industry. Welcome to the digital age. Welcome to a time when going to the movies means seeing the perfect picture. Film was never supposed to be perfect. The imperfections are in fact, the most beautiful part. They make film film.
    All we have left to hold on to is the films that have moved us and made us realize that there is more in life worth living for than just what we’ve experienced. Luckily if you are reading this, you are old enough to have had the opportunity to see a film projection in a movie theater. For kids born 10 years from now, they will be eternally missing out.