An Auspicious Birth
1939 is widely considered the most outstanding year in American cinema. Classics such as Goodbye Mr. Chips, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Wuthering Heights, Love Affair, Babes In Arms, Of Mice And Men, and Jesse James took the country by storm, and the year was topped off by two of Hollywood's most iconic films - The Wizard Of Oz, and Gone With The Wind. It was also the year that the Historic Lewis Theatre opened its doors.
The Heart Of Town
Originally built as both a cinema and vaudeville house, The Lewis has shown an estimated 5000 different films and countless live performances over the last 74 years, and is a charter member of the WV Historic Theatre Trail. With seating for 500, it was the entertainment center for not just the citizens of Lewisburg, West Virginia, bur for all of the people of the Greenbrier Valley. Cadets from the Greenbrier Military Academy met their Greenbrier Women's College wives on dates at The Lewis. Senior citizens, who saw their first motion picture here decades ago, are now introducing their grandchildren to the joys of the silver screen. On the eve of the death of 35mm film, we stand at a crossroads: do we let this cherished institution go quietly into that good night? Or do we come together as a community and ensure that The Lewis will be here providing the very best in cinematic experiences for years to come?
Live At The Lewis, Again
When ALL Arts purchased the facility in 2007, it was both to serve as a home for Trillium Performing Arts Collective and to continue showing movies, thereby reviving The Lewis Theatre's original purpose of showcasing live and cinematic performances. With Trillium and the community's help, we built a beautiful hardwood stage and added a section of stadium seating so that people could see better and more comfortably no matter what they were watching, and that a performance space existed that was accessible to everyone. Since then, concerts, plays, dances, classes, galas, and weddings have all graced our stage and though the loss of the movie business wouldn't directly effect these events, the indirect cost could be huge: the movie theatre subsidizes the rest of the facility; it's what keeps the lights lit and the heat on, and people like to see and stay warm!
We're Keepin' It Real..Cheap!
One of the traditions that we love, passed down to us from former owners, is that The Lewis has always been affordable. Our tickets are almost 30% cheaper than the other theatres in our region and our concessions are 40% cheaper, on average, than our competitors. The reason for this is simple - ALL Arts is committed to keeping The Lewis a community center for education, participation, performance, and entertainment; we are a for-profit business whose not really focused on making a profit. As long as we can pay the bills, pay our staff, and keep the theatre looking clean, warm, friendly, and inviting, we're happy. Our managers work hard to pick movies of merit, not just what will sell, because the people of Lewisburg and our surrounding community deserve the chance to see the highest quality films that the industry has to offer, regardless of box office numbers.
The Final Pitch...
We can't do this alone. Converting to digital is an expensive process and has already been the death knell for hundreds of small town theatres like ours. Though technology has made some improvements and the cost has decreased dramatically over the last few years, we are still looking at about a $65,000 investment for a new DCI-compliant projector and sound system. Knowing this was coming, we've been stockpiling resources for the last few years and have raised nearly half of what we need, but time is running out; movies are already being released without any 35mm prints being made, and nearly all cinema will be exclusively digital by the end of this year. For us to make it to our 75th anniversary next year, our Diamond Jubilee, we're going to need a little help.
...And a Promise
Some Kickstarter projects are overfunded, especially when a community is invested in the outcome. Should that be the case, there are two things you can be sure of: first of all, that we really do live in the coolest small town in America, and secondly, that ALL Arts, LLC will commit any excess funding towards additional Lewis Theatre improvements. Any size donation is greatly appreciated and if you can't afford to give, please share our story with your friends.
Some Of Our Friends
Community partners who have held live and/or cinematic events at The Lewis include the following:
American Civil Liberties Union, WV, Carnegie Hall, Charleston Blues Society, Fairness WV, Fiber Network, Greater Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce, Greater Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation, Greenbrier East High School, Greenbrier Episcopal School, Greenbrier River Watershed Association, Greenbrier Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, Greenbrier Valley Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, Lewisburg Chocolate Festival, Lewisburg Elementary School, Lewisburg Literary Festival, National Association for Mental Health, Robert C Byrd Clinic, Ronceverte Elementary School, Serenity Now Outfitters, Trillium Performing Arts, WV Filmmakers Festival, WV Historic Theatre Trail, WV School of Osteopathic Medicine
Risks and challenges
Yes, digital cinema is already on its way to Lewisburg. An eight screen multiplex is being built a couple of miles out of town that will be fully state of the art, with all of the latest gadgets and accoutrements. Though this definitely creates some challenges for us, it also opens the door for creative problem-solving. Even with the prospect of eleven total screens operating in our area, there are still more than twice that number of feature films released each week; we might need to do more research and advertising on non-mainstream films to make sure we are providing our audiences with the best of what's available, but we can handle that. Beer and wine will soon be added to our concession stand, for those of legal age, and we'll still be the most affordable entertainment around. Being downtown, close to all of the amazing hops and restaurants that Lewisburg has to offer, is another bonus and makes dinner and a movie an attractive option. We'll continue to show the movies our loyal patrons ask for at the lowest cost we can make available, that is a Lewis Theatre Guarantee.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (39 days)