DYLAN J. BAKER
MANCHESTER -- The Village Picture Shows has reached its goal of $175,000 that will upgrade the movie theater projection equipment and other needs of the building.
Village Picture Shows hit their target on Saturday, Feb. 23, when they held a fund-raiser with the screening of the movie "The Majestic." That movie is eerily similar to the Village Picture Shows own situation. The Majestic, a 2001 film starring Jim Carrey, is based around restoring the old movie theater that had fallen on hard times and a small town community working together to see it come back to life.
That community strength showed again on Sunday when the Village Picture Shows hosted a hot chocolate society Oscar party which featured good food and entertainment as 30 percent of what was raised was donated to the Kickstarter campaign.
Owner of the Village Picture Shows, Shelly Gibson, was ecstatic once she heard the news and wanted to thank the entire community for the help they have given her.
"I think that it shows that the Manchester community truly values its gathering places so that we can all join together in the arts," she said. "It is a little bit unfair, what is happening in this type of business, and so many theaters are either closing or they are trying to raise money and having difficulty and it just shows this community has an amazing spirit.
As of Tuesday, Feb. 25 the Kickstarter has been able to pledge $177,191 from 925 backers with 17 days left.
Gibson said she was somewhat surprised that the goal was reached so quickly.
"It feels overwhelming. It feels like such a relief to know that the community is so solidly behind this little theater," she said. "Now that we know we have made our goal we can really start finding what needs to be done next."
The Village Picture Shows will not receive the entire amount of the pledges toward the campaign. Gibson said that 10 percent of the fees go towards Kickstarter and Amazon and that after taxes are taken out they have about $140,000 to spend, which is why they are still asking for more.
Gibson wants to reach out to the communities of Manchester, Dorset, East Dorset, Winhall and all the surrounding towns to ask for just a little bit more and really make it a community movie theater.
"I know that times are very tough for some people but we truly want to be the community theater so I’m asking for everyone to donate even just $1 so I can put everyone’s name on the wall of the theater," Gibson said.
The money pledged will go towards a new digital projection system, screen, sound system, computers, 3-D equipment, automation, and safety lighting among other needs.
Gibson said technically they do not have the money yet. Village Picture Shows needs to wait until March 15 when the Kickstarter campaign is officially over, until the pledges will be considered donations. After that they need to wait two weeks, April 1, for the Kickstarter fund to be released.
"We are looking at March 28 as our last night to be open," said Gibson. "We hope that all of the work can be completed in the month of April for a May 3 opening, but that is not set in stone. There are still a lot of things we need to figure out, but now that we know we have the money we can really start the work."
The money pledged towards the campaign has come from all over the country and around the world. Gibson said they have received pledges from the Midwest, Florida, California, London, and even Israel. That diversity if one reasons why she decided to use Kickstarter.
"It is one of the most well recognized crowd funding sites," said. "One of the reasons we think it is worth paying the fee is because they offer us the ability to cast out a very wide net. I was able to use my own personal e-mail list and share the Kickstarter link."
Gibson said she was also able to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to further expose the campaign to as many people as she could. Gibson jokingly said, "I had never tweeted a tweet before this campaign and still to this day a majority of the pledges were trafficked through Facebook. It was a great tool to use."
Berta Maginniss, the executive director of the Manchester and the Mountains Chambers of Commerce, said that they witnessed a steady stream of support almost from the beginning as it became clear the campaign had a lot of support.
"You could see that trend rolling," she said. "We saw a steady support almost from the get-go. Money was coming to the chamber every day and not just from our community. We have a lot of second home connections here and we had support from all over the country. Shelly [Gibson] was very wise with reaching out to people and she kept promoting the effort on Facebook."
Maginniss said that an effort like this really shows the true colors of a small town community.
"It was clear to us that it was recognized and that we sure didn’t want the theater going away. If we didn’t have a theater we would be working to get one here and its always easier to keep something than to try and bring one back," she said.
On Thursday, March 7 the Vermont Country Store will be sponsoring a movie night for their employees and the entire community, signing out both theaters and running two movies, one for kids and one for adults. Although the movies have yet to be determined, they will be providing Vermont Country Store Candy and the price of admission will be used directly as donations to the theater.