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$49,449 pledged of $120,000 goal
By Ben Harroun
$49,449 pledged of $120,000 goal

Perspective: The life lessons of a family in the movie business

Food for thought from a rambling mind:

I just walked out of a historical presentation at our local movie theatre, The Onarga Theatre. It was about the history of this small town theatre, the Very First, talking picture show south of Chicago in the US back in 1937. The history was pretty cool, and the place is facing the same dilemma as we are at the Harvest Moon. But one thing struck me more than anything when I was watching the presentation about the older films and the transition from it's start as the brain child of the Thomas Edison, to the Lumiere brothers, Nickelodeon mini theatres, Vaudeville, silent films, talkies, then color, and now the High Definition 3D films we see today. That fact was that of all those old disciplines, they are only preserved in memories and museums. Vaudeville, black and white, silents, all of these medium and the movie houses that housed them and have since vanished. It actually caught me off guard. In this modern age of HD movies on my iphone, internet everywhere you turn, and the constant chatter of millions of distractions everytime we sit down to see a movie, watch tv, each a meal, the slow pace of watching a movie in your car with your friends and significant other is something different and special.

The big thing that literally brought me to tears? The realization that the next two weekends will be the very last time I touch 35MM film as it rolls through our projector. Flipping the switch, hearing the buzz of the rectifiers as the 5000 watt bulbs fire up, the click and whirl of hundreds of small gears pulling the miles of film through the projector is a unique sound I'm never going to hear again. Although I'm not the main projectionist; over the years I've helped to deliver the movies, splice them together, rewind, make the announcements, pick the trailers and previews, and trouble shoot these mechanical beasts that breathed life into thousands of movie titles over the past 23 years. The full force, knowing that the end of this season may close this landmark sends tears to my eyes whenever I think of the memories. It's where I got to spend time with my Mom and Dad, brother, close friends, and had some of the only memories I can't forget in recent years. On top of those feelings, knowing that Sunday the 30th, we will take apart our last film, dim the screen lights, turn off the transmitters, and walk away from over two decades of memories and over 130 years of 35MM film showing us our weekend entertainment, I'm going to feel lost.

Every fall, I look forward to getting off from the drive in and enjoying my weekends with friends out at other theatres, concerts, and relaxing at home. But this year feels so different. This is potentially the last time I'll be here; selling tickets, joking with our friends new and old, watching the film run its course until the blue light signals the end of the movie, and the end of an entire era in our history. As the credits roll on our movie, the one featuring two family's dreams of a drive in movie theatre, our struggles, joy, passion, and finally the climactic ending. I hope to see a sequel. One where this drive in bursts back to life like a phoenix in the spring, with new projectors, a big celebratory festival to enjoy our revival and rebirth as one of the few digital drive-ins in the country. Will you help me write this memoir, contribute to the movie of my life, and preserve something of our past outside of walls of memories and museums?

Thank you for reading this, and if you have any good memories of the Harvest Moon over the past 58 years, please feel free to post them below. This is more than a theatre, It's literally my life since I was a child.


Ben Harroun and family


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    1. Dena Strong on September 20, 2012

      Another thought - could you set your Kickstarter target to $60K and do one of the screens, then work on funding the other screen later?

    2. Dena Strong on September 20, 2012

      Is it possible to do Prosper-style community "microloans" through Kickstarter? Because the co-op at Lincoln Square raised about half a million dollars by having 10 year loans from the community that it would pay back at a specific time with specific interest rates

      What I can afford to give away outright is lower than what I could afford to loan if I knew I'd get it back - does Kickstarter allow you to create "loan rewards"?

    3. Brad Smith on September 19, 2012

      I'm a college freshman this year, and I moved from Paxton about 11 years ago. But years before that, I remember pulling up in our jeep on the weekends that my mom wasn't working and playing on the swings, waiting for the movie to start, getting those little glow ball-stick things and getting candy-rationed by (at the time) seemingly over-caring parents. Even after we moved, occasionally we make the 40 mile trek out to Harvest Moon just to watch a movie.
      I had so much fun not only watching the movie, but having that added social aspect that you just can't get at home, or even at an indoor movie theater. It really makes me sad that something as amazing won't be there for my children, let alone for next summer even.
      Oh the sad day when memories start passing you by, forever to stay in the past :(

    4. Missing avatar

      Jan Dobson on September 19, 2012

      If only I had the money, I would give you the whole amount to keep the drive in open.

      I'm still hoping you will find your miracle that allows the Harvest Moon to reopen next spring. I can't even imagine what it will be like not to be able to bring my son and his friends out to the drive in a few times a year. I love bringing one of his friends who has never been to a drive in movie. Inevitably, they love it and are enthusiastic about coming back again and again.

      Crossing my fingers for you.

    5. Missing avatar

      Joni Peters on September 18, 2012

      Very heartfelt and moving, Ben. I don't know where I would start with my memories of the Harvest Moon, because, like you, I grew up there, albeit in a different generation. That was back when the drive-in could only afford to show the B movies, and everyone at school called it "the passion pit." I will sorely miss the Harvest Moon and all of the tremendous effort your family has put into the place since the '80s. I will also shed a tear on the last Sunday of the season . . . for my dad's dream and for your dream. I continue to hold hope that the funds will be raised. I know your miracle is out there somewhere.