Local Independent Theaters Need Your Help

Every once in a while life presents choice that doesn’t really have a right or wrong answer. If you’re lucky, it’s because both of your options are worthy. That’s kind of how we feel about a quiet little race going on in Tacoma right now. It’s the race to go digital, and the contestants are two of our favorite independent movie theaters.

The Blue Mouse and the Grand Cinema have somewhat different crowds, depending on what movies are showing. Both, however, currently face the same challenge: they both need to fully convert from film to digital cinema format if they want to continue to show new films. Therein lies a potential conundrum: we rarely see movies at any other theaters, but which of the two do we support with our dollars?

At last check the two theaters’ fundraising was running about even: the Blue Mouse was at just over $33,000, and the Grand was at about $32,000. The Blue Mouse is shooting for $75,000, with only 42 days to go on its Kickstarter fundraiser. The Grand, which has more projectors to replace, is aiming higher, with a goal of $344,000 to be raised from individual donors and foundations. It’s a big chunk of change for both institutions, no matter how you look at it, but it’s a leap they’ll have to make if they’re going to continue to be viable.

And there’s the answer: if they both make their goals, we all win, and we get to keep our local theaters operating. So choose one, choose both, but if you love Tacoma’s independent movie theaters, they could use a gift from you this holiday season.

Donate to help The Grand Cinema at www.FirstGiving.com.

Donate to help The Blue Mouse at www.Kickstarter.com.

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Brian Johnson

Thanks for highlighting this issue that both Tacoma theaters face. The Grand Cinema deeply appreciates the support of our members, patrons, and volunteers. If you didn’t know, The Grand Cinema is a non-profit, 501( c)(3) entity and your donations are tax-deductible. Thank you for your support.

Brian Johnson

Board of Directors, Grand Cinema

December 5, 2012 at 11:38 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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fred davie

Brian, why didn’t the Grand and other similar theaters start planning for the future years ago when you first became aware that digital was going to replace film? Why wait until the 11th hour?

Also, I ran the numbers on the new investment. Each new projector will cost about $600 per month. Couldn’t you just add a quarter to every ticket and cover the expense?

December 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Brian Johnson

Hi Fred,

Fair question. It wasn’t actually that long ago that the production companies made the final decision that they were, in fact, completely halting the distribution of films on film. Now, that’s not to say that we didn’t anticipate that we’d have to move in this direction. Had we started fundraising for projector replacement a couple of years ago, we would have had to raise even more money because the digital project technology was even more expensive and the technology wasn’t as good. We’re still about a year out from needing to have the projectors installed, so we’re not at the 11th hour just yet.

I suppose we could raise prices, but we try to keep ticket prices low so all members of the community can experience the art of film.


December 5, 2012 at 4:59 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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fred davie

Thanks Brian.

Well, you know your business better than anyone else but I have a hard time believing that the same community which will eagerly support an expensive kickstarter campaign would be reluctant to pay an extra quarter to attend your movies. Other businesses make marginal increases in their pricing all the time to cover captial expenses and I haven’t heard about any pushback. The reality is that you aren’t doing your business, or your community for that matter, any favors by underpricing your product.

That’s just my opinion, for what it’s worth.

December 6, 2012 at 8:04 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Mofo from the Hood

Man, it used to be that when a fella wanted to start and maintain a business, he would offer a value like goods or services in exchange for some other value. After some time, if the pricing method and business records didn’t reveal the possibility of a profit, then the proprietor would place hand drawn signs on telephone poles, or bulletin boards at the grocery store or laundry. Other sign posting methods were often tried. Sometimes the proprietor would get a guitar and stand and strum on a street corner. Sometimes a proprietor would just stand alone at the edge of a freeway offramp. Whatever the case, the proprietor’s sign always read the same: “Need Money. Want To Buy A New Asset.”

December 6, 2012 at 9:43 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Peter P

@Fred, I too ran the numbers. For $344K, assuming that the Grand wants to pay this off in 10 years and gets a loan at 5% (the theater would probably love to have terms like this) — that comes to a bit over $3600 per month, or $900 per screen. Of course, if the Grand would want to pay it off sooner then the amount would go up (for example, to $6400/month or $1600 per screen to pay this off in 5 years). Given the non-profit nature of the Grand and the way banks work, I doubt that any loan officer would even offer the Grand the terms I suggested. And even if a bank wanted to do the loan, it would undoubtedly loan far less than 100% of the $344,000 total cost. So I see the fundraising appeal pretty much as a necessity for the 10 or 20% that a lender would require that the Grand come up with itself. I’m not sure of the Grand’s seating capacity or its typical crowds, although I suspect that to cover these costs by raising admission prices it will need to bump rates by more than a quarter a ticket — I’d guess it would run more in the $.50-$1.00 range. I for one appreciate having a viable art house theater like the Grand in Tacoma rather than having to head to Seattle to see something that the multi-screen megaplexes won’t risk showing. So yeah, I’ll be figuring out how to chip in for this.

December 7, 2012 at 2:50 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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It would be interesting to see what the Grand and Blue Mouse’s balance sheets look like to determine if they have accumulated any kind of surplus “nest egg” for such contingencies.  I have heard the Grand does reasonably well for a non-profit.

December 12, 2012 at 5:10 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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June 2, 2018 at 9:05 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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