Just east of Interstate 29 in Dell Rapids, South Dakota lies the Dells Movie Theater, a beautiful art deco movie palace built in 1938. Eighty years after its debut, the theater remains one of the focal points of downtown Dell Rapids, a town of a little more than 3,700 just north of Sioux Falls. The theater has welcomed generations of Dell Rapids families to its single-screen cinema over the years and could lay claim to being America’s quintessential small-town movie house.
Theaters like the Dells and other independent, small-town cinemas are facing increasing pressure in order to remain viable in this age of streaming and unrelenting assaults on its customer base . But like the threats posed by TV in the 1950s, VCRs in the 1980s, and an explosion of in-home options over the last ten years, movie theaters continue to adapt and innovate. The question is, will it be enough this time?