Destin’s 'Original Theater' goes digital (PHOTOS)

Jennie McKeon
Len Lively worked movie projectors since he was a teenager, eventually leading up to him one day managing his own theater. "That's history right there," he said pointing to the outdated equipment.

Len Lively started his 40-year career in the movie theater business at the concession stands.

As a teenager, he worked his way up, learning how to operate the projectors — a task he still carries out even as manager of Lively Cinema 10.

Starting the first of the year however, all movies will be distributed digitally, meaning that Lively and his cinema will have to change with the times.

"To me, 35mm prints are better quality, but they're not going to make them anymore," Lively said.

Above the theater screens are the eight working film projectors. There were 10, but now the last two are used for parts. Just like the film prints, the projectors that play them are on the way out for good.

Lively starts and ends his day at the theater, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., working the projectors. Ironically, he doesn't get to see as many movies as you'd think.

"Sometimes, I'll watch a movie in the middle of the night," he confessed.

When the theater goes digital, he might have more time to watch the movies that he books every week.

"I won't have to worry about threading the film into the projector; I could start the movie from the ticket booth," he said.

Before Rave — or now, AMC —  opened in Destin Commons, Lively Cinema was Destin's first theater. Built in 1986, it was the go-to weekend hangout for teenagers and young adults.

"We're the original theater," said Lively. "It was so busy I used to have the cops out here. Not anymore."

When AMC opened 10 years ago, Lively Cinema suffered a severe decline in business.

"It hurt us big time," Lively said. "It cut me down to a quarter of my business."

But the theater has survived, thanks to regular customers and snowbirds that "pour into the theater." Movie theaters rarely make money off of tickets, but instead off of the concession stand. It's the regulars in the community that keep Lively alive.

"It's all about the people," Lively said.

Want to go?

The Lively Cinema 10 is located at 759 Harbor Blvd. Movie prices are $6-$8. For more information and showtimes, visit