The End of Film in 2013: A New Beginning for the Naro

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 6,2013: Thanks to you, our devoted Naro patrons, the fundraising drive for the digital cinema conversion has now reached its goal. The new equipment is now being installed. And yes, we do plan to keep and maintain our 35mm film projectors.

Our Digital Cinema Night for the many generous Clarence Campaign contributors will be Thursday, Nov 21. Doors open at 7:30 for the pre-show and the film is at 8:00pm. This is a free film event and open to all qualifying Campaign contributors. Please RSVP by phone (625-6275 or-6) or email (

The Naro is one of the last movie houses in the region still showing 35mm film prints. But the film processing labs are winding down and will be closing by the end of 2013; it’s the end of an era of a classic technology that has remained essentially unchanged since its birth in late 1890s.

Watch a new 9-minute film about The Naro and how it is being affected by the evolution of movies from film to digital media. Graciously produced by local filmmaker Robert Fowler.

The national theater chains have already converted. They have been subsidized by the major Hollywood media companies who are paying back the exhibitors for most of their digital expenses over a period of years. Small independent theaters and art houses like the Naro have not benefited from the studio funding and must foot the hefty bill themselves. Many cannot afford the costs of conversion and it’s predicted that a thousand screens could close down by the end of this year. The Naro is determined not to be one of them – but there are a confluence of forces that are creating real difficulties.

The Naro offers a plethora of film titles each year. But many of these “movies for grown-ups” are not supported by a large enough audience to make them profitable. A large part of of the Naro’s 2012 boxoffice was generated by eight movies that had longer runs at the Naro. All those dozens of other films programmed at the Naro accounted for the remainder of the total gross. Adults are not going to the movies as often in this age of home entertainment and video-on-demand, and when they do, they choose to attend the more popular art films.

The Naro receives no grants, or outside funding, or corporate sponsorships for all those art films, foreign films, and documentaries that benefit our community. We are truly independent and must depend totally on the boxoffice to cover all the costs of presenting these smaller films – but it too often falls short. This is not a sustainable business model, and yet the Naro is a business and not a non-profit arts organization. This small business leases the 75-year-old classic theater and it requires constant upkeep, maintenance, and restoration.

We are starting “The Clarence Digital Cinema Campaign” named after the guardian angel in It’s a Wonderful Life. We are looking for community support to help fund the expenses of converting to digital equipment and to help support the diversity of movie programming that our area has enjoyed for the last 35 years.

Our Pledge: A Community Pact

  • We will continue to bring the best in the cinema arts to Hampton Roads
    – international films, independent art films, documentaries, and vintage
    movie classics
  • We will keep our admission prices and concession prices affordable
  • We will continue to be your community movie theater with programming
    that includes fundraisers and benefits for organizations, charities, and
    public media
  • We will continue to maintain and restore the historic, 75 year old
    NARO movie theater.

Thom, Tench, and the Naro staff
Art Repertory Films (ARF, Inc, the locally-owned business that operates and leases the Naro Theater)

Here’s another locally produced video, “The Naro” featuring Lizzy B.