Fund Raising Effort Underway to Buy New Digital Projector, Seating for State Theater
During the Jan. 23 Auburn City Council meeting, a request was made on behalf of the State Theater/Auburn Public Schools for up to $63,000 in keno funds to purchase a digital projector.
Kevin Reiman, District 29 Superintendent of Schools, presented the request and was accompanied by Board of Education members Bob Hemmingsen and Barb Billesbach, and Carla Mason with American Dream Real Estate and Property Management.
Reiman explained then that the theater is currently using a 35 millimeter projector and film, but this type of technology is being quickly replaced by the motion picture industry with digital movies. It won’t be too long before Auburn’s State Theater will be unable to get movies to show. There have already been some instances when Auburn has had to wait to be able to get a specific show because of a limited number of film type movies still being produced.
Reiman reported that a $63,000 bid had been received for a new digital projector with screen. He said the theater, two rental properties and two apartments in the same building near 13th and J Streets are being operated financially separate from the school.
Reiman added, “We are not in a situation to fund this upgrade through the school budget but we want to do everything possible to keep the theater a vital part of the Auburn community.”
Acquiring a digital projector would allow for the showing of 3D movies and it would also make the theater building suitable for hosting other functions which are not possible now, according to Reiman.
The council tabled the question regarding approving a request for the keno funds until at least next month’s meeting.
Reiman commented at January’s Council meeting that it was his opinion, although he didn’t have the authority to speak on behalf of the Board of Education, that if the City of Auburn were to make a portion of the money available for the digital projector in the form of keno funds, it was his belief that the BOE would likely agree to taking out a loan to cover the rest of the expense provided fund raising continues and so that the loan payments could be made without utilizing school district money.
Interview with Carla Mason
During a recent interview, Carla Mason of American Dream Real Estate and Property Management discussed the technology challenges which the theater faces in greater detail.
Mason said KATS Enterprises donated the properties to Auburn Public Schools effective Jan. 1, 2011 and with the understanding that District 29 would maintain ownership for at least three years. Mason manages the theater operation for the school.
The Philly Grill and American Family Insurance — Tom Smiley Agency are located on the property, as are a one bedroom apartment on the main floor and a two bedroom apartment on the second floor. There is also a large area above the theater which formerly housed a Masonic lodge.
Mason said the money used to oversee the building leases and apartments is kept in an operating account separate from the school’s finances and profits from them help with keeping the State Theater open as the movie business hasn’t proven to be a big money maker as of this date. She added that the school district has not received any money from or spent any money on the theater.
The digital projector isn’t the first or only improvement planned for or taking place at the State Theater. Last September, the theater’s sound system was replaced for $3,100 and an item as basic as a projector bulb cost $695.
Mason said the theater still has a speaker which needs replaced. It is one of eight sets of speakers located throughout the building.
The new digital projector bid also includes a new silver screen which would be more mobile than the present fixed screen. This screen would measure 13X24 feet, while the existing one is 12X24 feet.
The manager said the theater was designed for 240 seats, but currently has 229 seats due to leaving spaces for handicapped access and also because some seats have broken. The theater received a $30,000 bid from a company to provide 240 new seats. However, this bid is only for the seats and doesn’t include removal of the old ones, refinishing the floor, and installing the new seats. She believes volunteers could be utilized to help with a seating project and result in a sizeable savings.
The spokesperson said room also exists for the theater’s stage to be extended to the west in an area that likely at one time served as an “orchestra pit”. Extending the stage and having a movable screen would greatly increase possible uses for the theater after a digital projector becomes a reality.
Fast-paced advances in motion picture technology, particularly those movies available in 3D, require a digital projector.
Mason told me several individuals have already made $100 contributions towards purchase of the digital projector and the Auburn Optimist Club has made a $1,000 donation. The Optimists are issuing a challenge for other organizations to meet or exceed their donation.
She added that the Auburn High School FBLA organization is formulating a fund-raising plan and the Auburn Chamber of Commerce will likely sponsor a fund raiser.
One way to raise money would be to sell 15-second ads which would run before the movies are shown. Mason said the “going rate for such advertising is $35 per showing, but the amount charged would likely be less.”
She explained that the 15-second advertising spots are valuable because they are seen by a very good target audience since most of the people viewing them reside near or in the community.
Mason said State Theater is trying to qualify for receiving a Digital Print Fee, which has been made available to help speed up the transition of showing movies from film to digital. Theaters can receive their digital feeds via the internet, by DVD or by satellite feed. This technology replaces the existing process in which seven or eight reels of film require splicing together for the normal showing of a feature movie. It would also reduce the amount of time which is now spent getting a movie ready for the current projector.
The theater manager said the acquisition of a digital projector would also open the facility to serving a number of other purposes. Another such event could include Big Ten games because even though the theater couldn’t charge admission, they would profit from the sale of concessions.
She said a local industry has expressed an interest in offering training to large groups at the theater if it were capable of projecting in a digital format.
Another option could include live theater productions if approaches were built onto the stage and if the screen was movable. Other possibilities would include band concerts, speech team performances, political debates, and the list goes on.
“We very much want to stay a movie house with a consistent schedule. Our 2 p.m. Sunday matinees have been moderately received,” she said. The State Theater’s normal hours are about 6:30 to 9:30 each night, with some exceptions.
People wanting to make a tax-deductible contribution may contact Mason or stop by the theater during regular business hours or to the Central Office of District #29 Schools.
Mason said the initial plans call for creating a “$100,000 thermometer” as a way to follow how much money has been received for the project and its progress toward the goal.
The theater also has posters for sale from retired movies at $5 apiece and a good assortment from shows seen here during the past year.
Mason said, “We have had people inquire as to whether there are any grant funds available for such a project and we haven’t been able to find any as of now to assist with the purchase of the digital projector and silver screen. However, we may have identified a couple of grants which could help with a seat replacement project and for which matching funds would be needed. We have been in contact with the USDA Rural Development and other agencies who might be able to assist with our work.”
She concluded that the building’s windows, HVAC and wiring are up to date and that is a big positive in moving forward in assuring that the State Theater remains an icon in Auburn for years to come.