The future of the 74-year-old, single-screen movie theater in downtown Arlington is in jeopardy as Hollywood studios turn from film to digital delivery of their movies. The problem is that the conversion to digital projection is costly and time is running out on film. Pretty soon, theater owner Norma Pappas won't be able to show first-run movies because all she has is her big reel canisters and a 35mm film projector.
With a goal of raising $30,000 by the end of February to pay for new digital equipment, the organizers of the Save the Olympic Theatre campaign revealed March 1 that the online fundraiser only brought in $3,662 -- slightly more than one-tenth of the goal.
The hope was that even if only a third of the money was raised, Pappas at least would have some capital together that might help her get a loan for a digital projector.
"It's rough, but we are not giving up. We have other fundraising events planned, including a benefit concert that's in the works," said Bryan Terry, one of the Save the Olympic Theatre organizers. "We want to help Norma out, but she is shy about taking the money. The owners of the Concrete Theatre were able to take help from the public and save their movie theater."
In Concrete, Port Townsend and Oak Harbor, moviegoers successfully donated money to the owners of private theaters to help them get the digital equipment.
Pappas could not be reached for comment this week, though in the past she's expressed her gratitude for the concern and help from Save the Olympic Theatre. Like the owners of other small theaters in the area, Pappas isn't interested in turning the Olympic over to a nonprofit. She hopes someday to sell the Olympic and retire.
The Save the Olympic Theatre group also has applied for help from Save America's Cinemas, a New Jersey-based nonprofit dedicated to providing the financial assistance required to buy digital equipment needed for about 3,000 small-town cinemas and theaters across the country. The local group has not yet heard back.
In addition, Save the Olympic Theatre members looked into renting digital equipment. It isn't feasible owing to the fact that the digital projectors are customized to fit each particular theater, Terry said.
"What we need right now are some people who have experience raising money, people who have run foundations," Terry said. "It may be that Norma will have to shut the theater down for a while until she can get a digital projector. This would be sad because the Olympic is an important draw to downtown."
The next fundraising event for the theater is a benefit showing of the documentary, "Wild Horse, Wild Ride," at 8 p.m. March 16. The documentary is about volunteers who take home wild horses and prepare them for competition in 100 days, bringing attention to the many wild horses in the West sent to slaughter each year. Organizers hope that at least 250 people will commit to paying $10 a ticket for the showing.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help the Olympic
To donate to help the Olympic Theatre buy a digital projector and keep showing first-run movies, leave a message at www.facebook.com/SaveTheOlympicTheatre. This weekend, the theater is showing "Oz the Great and Powerful." The group Save the Olympic Theatre also meets at 8 a.m. each Saturday at the Local Scoop restaurant, 434 N. Olympic Ave. A fundraiser benefit showing of "Wild Horse, Wild Ride" is set for 8 p.m. Saturdayat the theater. The Olympic Theatre is located at 107 N. Olympic Ave.
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