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Curtain closes on 83-year-old theater in Hot Springs

HOT SPRINGS (AP) -- A South Dakota movie theater built more than 80 years ago is closing its doors.

The manager of the Hot Springs Theater cites poor attendance and a technology mandate as reasons for shutting down the movie house that opened July 1, 1930, with the film "Byrd at the South Pole."

Theater manager Roy Reitenbaugh said the building's owner is reluctant to spend as much as $60,000 to upgrade to a digital-projecting system for a theater that sees fewer than 50 people for a weekend movie.

"The last film we had here we had 30 people," Reitenbaugh said. "And the one before that we had 45. That barely covers the cost of the help we have."

The Rapid City Journal reports that typical second-run films shown in the past would cost the theater 35 percent of box office earnings. The move to digital requires theaters to pay a flat fee of $1,500.

Another theater in the region, at the Ellsworth Air Force Base, announced six months ago it was closing because of the cost of conversion to digital and lagging attendance.

Reitenbaugh said he's hopeful the theater in Hot Springs, a town of 3,700 people in southwestern South Dakota, can find a way to re-open.

"It would really sadden me if we couldn't figure out a way to keep it going," he said. "The owner has put a lot of money into this theater over the past few years; a new heating system, new roof and a new concession stand. It's a great old building."