LAKEVIEW — The marquee at Lakeview’s Alger Theater, the town’s only movie house, says it all:

It’s blank.

After 18 months of struggling to keep open, Alger owners Kevin and Susan Samples have turned off the lights and locked the doors. The Alger’s final film, “The Nut Job,” was shown earlier this month.

Rise of home entertainment

Like other rural movie theaters, audiences at the Alger had been declining in an era of Netflix and DVDs. But for the Alger, the lights out punch has been the film industry’s switch from 35 millimeter films to digital. According to the Samples, converting to digital would cost $60,000 to $70,000. They figure it would cost another $50,000 to upgrade the theater, which still has the same seats used when it opened in 1940.

“There’s not enough people to support the theater,” said Kevin, noting the Alger was limited to showing movies three to four weeks, or sometimes longer, after their initial release.

“People leave town,” he said of movie goers wanting to see new, highly anticipated films and making the 100-mile drive to Klamath Falls. “If they want to see it twice, they go to our theater.”

The Samples have operated the theater since moving to Lakeview in 1987. They rented the Alger and the former Yogurt Station, which they renamed The Burger Queen, for five years until buying both businesses in 1992.

Retro charm

Part of the Alger’s charm is its retro feeling. Built in 1940, the theater has a 40-foot tall ceiling, art-deco architecture and balcony. Several years ago a stage was added, displacing several rows of seats, but the 3,000 square foot theater still had room for 344 people. A lack of people filling those seats caused the Samples to limit movies to Friday and Saturday nights with Sunday matinees. Since August, movies were shown only every other weekend.

“It’s secondary,” Kevin said of people going to movies. “People have the attitude, ‘If there’s nothing else to do, we’ll go to the show.’ ”

That choice is gone.

“Until some economic boom hits Lakeview it’s pretty much over,” he said of closing the theater, something he terms a business decision.

“There’s no plans. It’s just going to sit,” Kevin said of the Alger’s future. “It’s really sad, but we had to do what we had to do. It’s not good — it hurts the town.”