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State Theater to reopen

The State Theater in Tupper Lake is preparing to reopen after locals raised thousands of dollars to help theater owner Sally Strasser buy two servers, which failed from underuse during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — After more than a year of the State Theater being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, owner Sally Strasser is excited to start showing movies there again. A big reason why is because the community has been raising money to keep the State open for new movies after two essential pieces of equipment failed while the screens were closed to the public.

COVID claimed both of the theater’s computer servers through underuse. The technology is what allows the State to screen new movies.

“It’s pretty important,” Strasser said.

Servers decode Digital Cinema Package files, which movie distribution companies use to securely ship their films. They’re encrypted to avoid piracy. Replacing both will cost $16,000 and locals have already raised around half of that, enough for Strasser to purchase one server and get her larger downstairs theater ready for new releases.

GoFundMe

Strasser has turned to the community for help with technology upgrades before. In 2013, Hollywood mandated all theaters switch from film to digital projection, creating an existential threat to small, independent movie houses like the State. Through the Adirondack North Country Association’s Go Digital or Go Dark campaign, Strasser raised over $70,000 to make the transition.

“I feel really bad having to ask,” she said Sunday. “I had already gone to them before, I felt really bad doing that.”

But Tupper Lakers were willing to pitch in again, and by Sunday afternoon had raised $7,220 of the theater’s $16,000 goal to replace the servers.

She was surprised at how many people were willing to again step up to help the State.

“I’m thankful for the people of Tupper Lake,” Strasser said.

She was hesitant to do a GoFundMe but realized it was the only way to keep movies in Tupper Lake.

“Boy I wish I didn’t have to reach out like this,” she wrote on her GoFundMe page. “But I already took an EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) that is mostly depleted.”

She said this loan was used to winterproof the building, pay electric bills and maintain insurance through the last year.

Server shutdown

The servers need heavy use to remain fresh and operational. Theaters were advised to run them twice a week during the pandemic so Strasser told State Theater Manager John Barton to watch as many movies as he wanted.

“Even with that they both died,” she said.

A battery on a circuit board went bad.

Strasser said this has been happening all over the country, with many different brands of servers. Her servers, made by the projector brand Christie, have a particular problem; they were released with several design flaws and are known to break even in the best of years. She’s replaced several of them through an extended warranty in the past, but the company has discontinued supporting the servers and will not be servicing them anymore.

Christie is offering theaters a deal for new servers at “what they consider to be a low-ish price,” Strasser said. Still, the total cost of the server, interface kit, shipping and installation comes out to $8,000 per server.

Strasser chose a Dolby IMS3000 as her new server. It’s in the mail now and when it arrives in a few weeks she said her technician in Albany is standing by to install it. She hopes to have it running in time to screen A Quiet Place Part II when it’s released on May 28. The release of this sequel has been held back since March 2020.

Film future

The pandemic put a pause on movie releases and production. But after a year, with vaccinations and more movie venues opening up, Strasser said she’s cautiously optimistic the film industry will be releasing new movies soon. Still, it will still be slower than usual, so she’ll have to adapt.

“I’m going to have to roll with the punches,” she said.

The theater business is changing, she said, and she’s looking to offer new services.

Strasser will soon begin renting out a theater for people to bring their own Blu-Ray disks and watch a movie with up to 32 of their friends and family. It costs $100 for the first 15 people and $5 for extra people up to 33. She’ll be selling buttery popcorn and snacks in the front.

She’s also has adapted the theater to support gaming. If someone wants to bring their Nintendo Switch and play Super Smash Brothers on the big screen, Strasser said she welcomes it. She’s also considering screening independent films in the fall.

To make all this happen she’s purchased a disinfecting UV light and air filtration systems, both of which are in the mail.

Strasser said she wants to make her audience as comfortable as possible.

The State Theater’s GoFundMe can be found at https://bit.ly/3gkCMU5.

(Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said it costs $100 to rent the theater for 33 people. It costs $100 for the first 15 people and $5 for extra people up to 33. The Enterprise regrets the error.)

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