An eastern Iowa lawmaker says he’ll try again next year to pass legislation to help Iowa’s struggling small town movie theatres. Jeff Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, wants to tap economic development loans to help theatres convert to new state-of-the-art digital projection systems which theatres nationwide will be adopting in the coming years.
Kaufmann says for some small towns, the local movie screen is important to the local economy. Kauffman says, "West Liberty is, I guess you would say, famous in the area because they this, just this wonderful film festival in the spring time. And a lot the small towns, I know in my district, in West Liberty and Tipton both, these theatres are economic development for them."
Four major studios recently announced a financing agreement to help the nation’s top movie-theatre chains convert to digital projection. Kaufmann says it’s hard for the small town theatres to afford the upgrade.
"The problem as they describe it to me is that these small town independently owned movie theatres are going to incur a tremendous expense at converting to a digital format," Kauffman says. Kaufmann says he also heard about the problem from a theatre in Tipton, and a drive-in movie theatre near Muscatine.
Kaufmann’s bill would have made the theatres eligible for state economic development loans. An opponent of the bill says that would take the loan money away from its intended use.