By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
ARLINGTON — Lisa Clarke had her first kiss in the Olympic Theatre. Even now when she attends a movie there, she always sits in the same seat.
A 1988 graduate of Arlington High School, Clarke now lives in Kirkland. Frequently though, she heads north to visit her family. When she saw a friend’s post on Facebook that the Olympic’s future was in jeopardy, Clarke, 43, jumped in to help.
For nearly two years, people in town worried that the 74-year-old, single-screen movie theater wouldn’t keep up as Hollywood studios turned from film to digital delivery of their movies.
The problem was that the conversion to digital was too expensive for longtime theater owner Norma Pappas to accomplish on her own.
A volunteer community group called Save the Olympic Theatre rallied to raise money for the digital conversion.
As the word got around, other people such as Clarke stepped in to help form a nonprofit foundation that will oversee the Olympic’s future.
The board of the foundation includes Pappas.
The foundation has been recognized by the Secretary of State’s office in Olympia and is on a list for an expedited nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service, said Clarke, who serves as president of the foundation.
The foundation and the community volunteers joined forces earlier this month.
They studied what other small theaters in the country were doing to solve the costly problem of converting to digital movie presentation. The group determined that the Olympic can keep operating with additional support from the community donated to the foundation, Clarke said.
“But it’s going to take the ongoing commitment of a strong and experienced team of leaders to take this forward,” she said.
A generous donor stepped forward in March to help buy the digital equipment needed for the Olympic.
By the end of summer, the foundation should be able to order and install the equipment, Clarke said.
The Olympic Theatre Foundation plans to form volunteer committees, launch a membership campaign and host its first gala fundraiser in October.
After Pappas retires from the theater and the foundation, the board plans to hire a general manager and rent the building from Pappas.
Information about the foundation is at www.OlympicTheatre.net.