Movies "reel' to a halt on base Oct. 1

by Rebecca Burylo
Air University Public Affairs

9/21/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, AL  -- Movies reel to a stop at the Maxwell-Weaver Theater Oct.1. Michael Allen, director of the 42nd Civil Engineer Squadron, who is in charge of all buildings on base, said there has been no decision so far concerning the future use of the theater.

The options are renovation for meetings and conferences or complete demolition. Though the building is old and holds a "potential historical eligibility" status, Allen added that the building could still be demolished. However, the process for such a decision could take six to nine months.

Lorenzo Salgado, Army and Air Force Exchange Service general manager for the Maxwell and Fort Rucker AAFES stores, is head of the daily operations of such facilities as the theater and exchanges. AAFES operates the theater and is responsible for the projection equipment, while the building itself is assigned to the host command.

Salgado said the decision to close the theater was an AAFES corporate decision based on the expense of adapting to the recent digitization of the movie industry. In 2008, the industry began converting over to digital projectors to accommodate the movies being released in digital formats.

"The industry is quickly converting to all digital, and by mid-2013, 35 mm film will no longer be produced. The cost of conversion to a digital system was not economically sound, based on the theater's patronage and earnings," said Salgado.

"We have a responsibility to protect our Airmen's money." The theater currently uses a 35 mm projection system, referring to the width of the film. Up until a few years ago, with the introduction of digitization, this type of film projection was the only format used in commercial movie theaters.

Also, contributing to the decision to close the theater was the limited number of sales and very few patrons attending the theater. "The patronage at the theater was limited," Salgado said. For some viewings, there were as few as two patrons. The attendance varied based on the popularity of the movie." Until October, movies will continue to show at regular times on Fridays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Organizations wishing to use the facility should contact the civil engineering squadron. The building currently housing the theater was originally dedicated to Maj. Gen. Walter Reed Weaver, (1885-1944), from the United States Army.

Weaver served as commanding officer at Maxwell Field during Alabama's Great Flood of 1929.