MANCHESTER -- A campaign to raise $175,000 got underway this week to keep the lights on and the doors open at the Village Picture Shows, the area's only movie theater between Bennington and Rutland.
The money is needed to finance an equipment conversion to allow the theater to show movies produced digitally, compared to those produced through traditional film-based movie stock. New projectors, new screens and a new sound system will be needed going forward, as filmmakers and distributors convert to the new format. By the end of this year, no more movies will be available in the older film-based version, said Shelly Gibson, the owner of Village Picture Shows.
"If we don't get the new digital projectors, we have to close; we can't get our product," she said. It's a problem facing most if not all small community movie theaters around the country, she added.
In an attempt to raise the needed money, which the theater cannot finance internally, Gibson has turned to a fund-raising format that has become increasingly popular for small scale enterprises that may be shut out of other sources of capital. "Kickstarter" is a website launched in 2009 that connects entrepreneurs or small businesses with potential donors who are willing and able to support ideas or causes with donations, usually in return for a comparably valued good or service.
The Village Picture Show's Kickstarter campaign launched on Tuesday, Jan. 15, and will run for 60 days, or until March 15. If by that time, the money raised falls short of the $175,000 goal, then the money will be returned and the theater will close shortly afterwards, probably around April 1, Gibson said.
She has owned the theater for about 10 years and for much of that time - especially for the past few years - has run it on a break-even basis, she said.
She first heard about Kickstarter from a customer about six months ago, she said.
"I started researching it, and looking at all the options," she said. "I didn't like the option the (film) distributors put forth to me (converting to digital equipment or closing), and I thought this would be the best way to do it."
It's an all-or-nothing program - if the Kickstarter mechanism doesn't yield up the $175,000 needed for the digital conversion, the theater will close. If, on the other hand, it raises more than the minimum amount, the money above and beyond the $175,000 will go into more upgrades for the facility, Gibson said.
To make a donation, or to learn more about Kickstarter, visit kickstarter.com.