Lewis Theatre creates Kickstarter Project to save itself

Mandy Knipe of Lewis Theater threads 35 MM film into projector
Mandy Knipe of Lewis Theater threads 35 MM film into projector

With the movie industry deadline for switching to digital from 35 MM film quickly approaching, the Lewis Theatre is embarking on a Kickstarter fundraising campaign in order to save the historic theatre.

Alana Preston of the Lewis Theatre explains, “We have spent the last six years saving money for the transition to digital; but we do not have another six years to come up with the remaining funds.”

The Kickstarter project will begin on Sept. 23, and last 39 days in an effort to raise $39,000. The amount raised will be added to existing funds to purchase new digital equipment necessary to continue as a movie theatre after the industry ceases production of 35 MM films next month.

The number 39 has noteworthiness for a few reasons; therefore the fundraising campaign is using it as a theme.

The Lewis Theatre was built in 1939 by the Yarid family, with a desire to reestablish a venue for the art of Vaudeville. The new theatre was then poised to usher into Lewisburg, the Golden Age of Movies. 1939 was the year of the Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

In September of 2007, Ann Davis, Larry Levine and Lin Preston stepped in and purchased the landmark in order to keep the theater open for not only movies, but to expand its use to include all arts. It is currently the home of the Trillium Performing Arts Collective.

When asked whether a theatre would have the choice to stay open and only show 35 MM films if it couldn’t afford the switch to digital, Devin Preston explained, “The movie industry plans to destroy practically all 35 MM film.” Devin, known as the movie man of the Lewis, says it is switch or die. According to Hollywood, over 50 percent of films produced before 1950 have already been lost or destroyed.

There is currently a similar project sponsored by Honda to save the drive-in theatres. Small town theatres are in the same boat, and need help as well to preserve this part of Americana. With no national corporate sponsor behind the small town theaters, they are on their own to accomplish raising the funds. Not all small towns still have their local independent old-time theatres. Most have closed over the years, having lost to the competition of large multi-screen movie complexes.

As with the Honda sponsored campaign, there will be great awards for sponsorship levels on Kickstarter. For donations from $25 to $5,000, there are thank you prizes. For instance, the $100 level will get a Name in Lights on the Lewis Theatre Screen during the pre-movie slideshow for an entire year. A $1,500 donation comes with the Name in Lights, a commemorative Thank You card with an authentic 35 MM frame of film attached, a private party featuring movie, popcorn and sodas for you and 100 friends. The film of choice may need studio approval and calender restrictions which require thorough planning. Both prizes have tickets to the Grand Reopening Celebration featuring a night of elegance with food, beverages, a classic movie and authentic movie posters to keep.

There will be a complete list of the award levels on www.Kickstarter.com. Search for The Lewis Theatre on Kickstarter beginning Sept. 23, or call Devin Preston or Larry Levine at the Trillium box office at 304-645-3003 for any questions about the fundraiser.

The Lewis Theatre owners and employees are committed to saving this historic building. As this theater patron says, “Its just the way Lewisburg does it.”

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