AFI Silver faces sharp losses if it can’t meet digital conversion -- Gazette.Net



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The American Film Institute Silver Theatre could lose 70 percent of its ticket sales by the end of the year if it can’t update its film equipment to a digital cinema system, Ray Barry, director of the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, said Tuesday.

The county Department of General Services has asked the County Council to provide a $325,000 match to a $375,000 state bond bill and $50,000 in donations to the theater for the upgrade.

“It is generally projected that all of the major distributors will cease releasing movies on 35 millimeter film by the end of 2013,” Barry testified. “This is an urgent and critical issue for AFI Silver.”

As early as last fall, the theater began feeling the effects of the industry’s transfer to digital cinema. Nearly a dozen of the films it was considering for a festival and a showcase could not be included because they were available only in digital, Barry said.

The council’s Planning Housing and Economic Development committee is schedule to consider the request at its Feb. 4 meeting.

In a separate hearing Tuesday, Montgomery County Board of Education Vice President Philip Kauffman made a request for the county’s spending affordability guidelines for the fiscal 2014 operating budget.

Kauffman asked the county to not only fund Montgomery County Public Schools at maintenance of effort — a state requirement to provide the same funding per pupil as the year before — but also to consider funding priorities above that threshold, which Superintendent Joshua P. Starr put in his budget request.

Starr asked for about $10 million more than MOE, an increase of .4 percent.

The Board of Education will take final action on Starr’s request on Feb. 12, the same day the council is scheduled to take final action on the guidelines.

The council must set three guidelines for the budget: the ceiling on property taxes, the ceiling on the aggregate operating budget, and how it will allocate that money.

On Feb. 4, the Government Operations & Fiscal Policy Committee will consider Kauffman’s testimony and staff recommendations.

kalexander@gazette.net