Times are changing.
Stuff like the house phone, tube televisions and VCR all have become obsolete. More advanced technology like smartphones, high definition flat-screen TVs and digital video recorders have taken over.
It’s no different in the movie industry. Brothers Davin and Troy Allison reopened the Opera House Theater in El Dorado Springs in 2007 after it had been closed 36 years. Then, the standard for showing movies was off 35mm film, a method which had been used since the 1920s. In 2007, about 1 percent of theaters were using digital projectors. In 2013, movies have gone digital and only can be sent to cinemas on hard drives in digital format.
Change becomes costly
The Opera House Theater’s projector was built in 1974. When the Allisons reopened the building, they figured it could be used for awhile because they thought the new digital format would be the norm 15 years down the road. However, six years later, the availability of the obsolete 35-mm movies had become sparse, so the Allisons knew changes would need to be made. Unfortunately those changes come at a steep price as the equipment to show digital movies costs $54,000.
“You can’t justify that type of price for a new projector,” Troy said, in a February article published in the Cedar County Republican. “Getting a return on such an investment can be particularly difficult due to movie companies reaping as much as 50 percent of box-office fees with minimums sometimes exceeding nightly ticket sales.”
With all of that in mind, the Allisons decided to stop showing movies at the theater last February. It was disheartening for the brothers, considering the theater has been a big part of El Dorado’s history since 1915 and the fact they had put so much work into renovating the building. Something had to be done.
That’s why the Allisons held a public meeting Monday, July 1, at the Opera House to discuss ways to raise the money to purchase a digital projector. For the Allisons, it’s not about making money. They just want the theater to go back to what it once was.
“We are trying to figure out what to do with this beautiful building,” Troy said. “I feel like having a movie theater is a real asset to our town. We have no interest in profiting off this. We want this to be the community’s theater.”
Looking at the options
One option being considered is using the Kickstarter website, a fundraising platform where someone can set the amount of money they want to raise and which allows people to donate money though the site. Eight theaters have used the site and have raised a significant amount of money, some even receiving more than $100,000.
“They give you a specific amount of time to accumulate the amount of money you want to raise,” Troy said. “If you make it, you get money. If you don’t, you don’t get money. The whole thing goes away. The downside to Kickstarter is they are a for-profit organization, so they take 5 percent of the money you get plus they get another 3-5 percent for handling.”
Another idea is to team up with Community Foundation of the Ozarks and have it help manage an account which would hold donated funds. The foundation has a website similar to Kickstarter called Cause Momentum where patrons can donate electronically. If that route was chosen, no extra fees would be applied; all the money would be applied toward the cause.
“You can raise money through the foundation, and they will hold onto the money while you’re in the process of getting your 501C3, which is your nonprofit,” Troy said. “Cause Momentum is similar to Kickstarter, but it’s through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Whatever people donate, they get awards for however much they donate.”
The hope is to reach out to El Dorado Springs alumni from all over the country for donations. The Allisons feel those who used go to the single-screen, second-run theater would be willing to give back to the community.
“They can go to their computer and donate from there without having to send a check,” Troy said. “Before we were limited to just what we could raise here in town. It has huge potential.”
Troy said he hopes to get the fundraiser started around July 15, which is the first week of the El Dorado Springs Picnic.
“We could really blow this thing up during the picnic,” Troy said. “We’ll have a lot of alumni in town and a lot of visitors. If we could get the word out then, it would be a big help.”
Organizing for the future
Once the digital equipment and projector is purchased, the Allisons are considering turning over the theater to a non-profit organization such as the Spring City Arts Council. To run the theater, volunteers will be needed collect money and run the concession stand. The digital projector automatically runs itself once the movie hard drive is inserted, so no one would need to monitor it.
So far, a five-person board has been assembled. Those five — Jami Carpenter, Teressa Hoover, Ron Alumbaugh, Greg Allison and Paula Newman — will gather periodically to decide how to accumulate funds for the projector. The Allisons hope they and the board can come up with other ideas to raise money. Right now, the board and the Allisons will try to figure out a way to get the word out.
“We just need to figure out what we’re going to do and how we are going to do it,” Troy said. “El Dorado Springs doesn’t have much else to offer. It needs to be here.”