The lights have gone dark at the Montauk Movie, possibly for good.
Fox Studios, a large producer of movies worldwide, has alerted all theaters that it will switch to digital films in December, and Dave Rutkowski, the theater’s manager, said he expects the other studios to follow suit. The new digital equipment would cost up to $85,000, an amount he said his family is not willing to spend.
The big chains, he said, have all the buying power. “And that just hurts the little theaters,” he said.
He remembers the Friday nights when teenagers would flock to the theater. “Their parents gave them $10 to $20 bucks and they didn’t leave until it was all spent,” he said, smiling at the thought. In the past five years, he said, movie theaters have seen a decrease in customers as people spend more of their viewing time with flat-screen TVs, home computers, and other digital devices.
But Mr. Rutkowski has fond memories of the films he’s seen on the big screen, especially “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He was the projectionist and was so spellbound by the movie when he first saw it that he almost forgot to switch reels. “I couldn’t take my eyes off of it,” he said.
There is something special about being among the first to see a new movie in the theater. In recent years, long lines formed hours before the midnight screenings of films from the Harry Potter and Batman franchises.
Mr. Rutkowski’s father, John Rutkowski, has owned the building since 1982, when he bought it from Leon and Carmen Lefkowitz, who also own the Pathfinder Day Camp in Montauk, now managed by their daughter Nancy Burns.
The building, which is in a central business zone, could be revamped as a restaurant, retail store, or yoga studio, among other things. “There’s a whole list of things you would be able to do here,” the younger Mr. Rutkowski said.
He’s had several appointments with possible renters and numerous phone calls from local real estate agents. It will be a sad day for the family if the theater does not continue to show movies, he said. “But you can’t keep it open for sentimental reasons.”
If a potential renter does not step forward, the family might consider reopening for the season next year and showing only the movies that remain on 35mm film reels. And if it rents, he said, he’ll have to find himself a job. “I have plans,” he said. “I’m looking at other businesses.”