Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Mar-Va Theater: "Forced To Close Doors" Without Digital Upgrades
By Kody Leibowitz
POCOMOKE CITY, Md. - Another busy weekend at the Mar-Va Theater has manager Katy Fleming looking at the projectors.
Fleming says the theater sold-out during their weekend viewing of Despicable Me 2. Two nights, five dollar tickets and a 548 seat house brought in $5,480 in ticket sales. With 40 percent due back to the movie company, that's at least $2,192 in sales for the theater, not including popcorn and candy.
"It was a fantastic film for us," Fleming said.
But Fleming admits that the film strips used last weekend are becoming more and more obsolete and soon could put theater out-of-business.
"All of the smaller theaters are being forced to upgrade from 35 mm film to this new digital version," said Fleming. "Honestly, it looks like we'll be forced to close our doors if we don't make this upgrade."
The theater manager added that they have until November before the switch needs to be made. Upgrades would cost the non-profit organization $110,000 for the 86-year-old Pocomoke City landmark and its only a few years after renovations that totaled almost $1 million, according to Fleming.
Shannon Walker, 15, says he's been volunteering at the theater for the past three summers. He calls the news "an absolute shock, it really made me emotional" when he first heard about the upgrades and possible closure.
"What's going through my mind is losing a historical place, which stands as an icon for most people in this city," said Walker.
Walker says several volunteers are going to start fundraising to save the Mar-Va, but he knows he only has three months left. Among his ideas, "car washes, bake sales, yard sales, anything just to earn money for the Mar-Va."
But volunteers have only been one source of fundraising. The theater itself has raised $10,000, or about a tenth of what's needed for the new equipment. Fleming says she has applied for two grants through the city. Pocomoke City manager Russ Blake, who also serves as vice president on the board of the Mar-Va Theater, says the city is looking into as many options as possible to try to keep the theater afloat.
"The city has worked closely with the Mar-Va Theater since the volunteers took over operation of the theater and have helped with the restoration of the theater all this time," said Blake. "We're still interested in helping them, because the Mar-Va Theater is one of the most important anchors of the downtown.
"As we revitalize the downtown, along with the other non-profit groups downtown, the new restaurant and several new businesses downtown, so we want to make sure that the Mar-Va Theater is able to continue in operation."
Fleming says the theater has been accepting donations in-person and online.