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Digital or death? Help save a 74 year old small town movie theater in Northern Wisconsin

Why does the Palace Theater need $60,000?

Like many things in this modern world we live in, film and movie theaters are progressing from analog to digital.  Meaning the old ways of showing movies, 35 mm prints, are going by way of the dinosaur.  Film companies (Warner Brothers, Fox, etc) are finding it far more cost effective to produce and distribute their movies in a digital format.  In fact, Paramount Pictures, for example, will distribute their last 35mm film during the 2013 holiday season. While it is more cost effective for them, for small, independent theaters, like ours it is extremely expensive to convert our two screens to a digital system.  When the rest of the major film companies decide to stop making 35mm film we will simply have to close because we will have nothing to offer our customers.  

Spooner is a small community that gets a surge of tourist traffic in the summers so the theater has the ability to sustain itself.  Meaning we make enough profit to pay the bills and the staff but not much more. Spending a large amount of money on a project that will not add to our customer base is a big part of why we can't afford to handle this digital conversion ourselves.  

For over 50 years during the holiday season the Palace offers community-sponsored holiday films free to the public every Saturday from Thanksgiving to Christmas. This year we played The Croods, Epic, Turbo, and Rise of the Guardians.  This is a great chance for our community to get together at the holidays, or parents can drop off the kids while they do some local holiday shopping.  On the final Saturday Santa comes by with treat bags for all the children.  This a great example of how important the theater is to our community. 

With Spooner being a small community, there are very few activities for the whole family to enjoy together.  Closing our doors would mean families have one less place to enjoy a Saturday afternoon.  

A little piece of history

The Palace Theater opened in 1939 in Downtown Spooner.  Back then the new piece of technology was air conditioning!

The original Palace Theater owners the Grengs
The original Palace Theater owners the Grengs
Interior photos circa 1939
Interior photos circa 1939
Interior photos circa 1939
Interior photos circa 1939

As you would imagine, over the 7 decades the Palace Theater has been in business there have been many updates and exciting events that have happened throughout the years.  The theater opened in 1939 with one very large screen and was converted into two screens in the mid 1980s.  

Projection booth
Projection booth

The above photo shows the additional projection booth that was added for the second screen.

The most significant event that happened at the Palace theater has all the makings of a Hollywood film but it happened in real life.  In June of 1986 the then current owner, Sheldon Kliman, was murdered.  His body was found near the entrance the the main auditorium.  His murder is still unsolved and has brought many people to our theater asking questions and even a few supernatural investigators.   

My family purchased the theater in 1991 and have done our best to maintain the historic charm of the theater at the same time adding all the necessary elements of a modern "movie house". With the success of Titanic we were able to afford a seat renovation in our smallest auditorium in 1999 and in 2009 we replaced all the original seats in our biggest theater.  Luckily we were able to save a few of the original "love seats" which helps preserve some of the historic character of the auditoriums. In 2009 we also updated our concession stand and gave the theater a fresh paint job.  

Why use Kickstarter to fundraise for digital conversion?

I first heard of Kickstarter when actor, Zach Braff, used it to help fund his latest film.  I thought it was such a fantastic platform because it allows the fundraisers a way to give back to the people who so generously gave to them.  Even though this is a global site it gives people a real sense of community because we are all coming together to achieve a worth while goal and that's a wonderful thing.  The other good thing about Kickstarter is that it is a "all or nothing" site.  If we do not reach our fundraising goal all of the money will be returned to our backers...no harm no foul.

What do we plan to do with $60,000

  • Purchase 2 year-old digital projectors
  • Upgrade our audio system
  • A server to download film content
  • New lenses
  • Cost of installation

Any monies raised beyond our current fundraising goal will go towards digital conversion of our second screen.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

No project comes with guarantees, however, I feel extremely confident that if we reach our funding goal installation will go very smoothly. I have already made contact and had an on-site quote done by the company that will be installing our equipment and they seemed to think the conversion would take 4-7 weeks. 4-6 weeks for delivery of the equipment and 1 week for on-site installation.

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    35 backers

    THE EDITOR: ONE FREE MOVIE PASS FOR LOCAL DONORS OR "OWN A PIECE OF HISTORY" WITH A 1 INCH FRAME OF 35MM FILM FOR OUT OF TOWN DONORS

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    93 backers

    THE MAKEUP ARTIST: TWO FREE PASSES WITH ONE LARGE POPCORN FOR LOCAL DONORS OR "OWN A PIECE OF HISTORY" WITH A 1 INCH FRAME OF 35MM FILM. ALL MAKEUP ARTISTS WILL BE LISTED ON OUR DONOR PAGE OF OUR WEBSITE

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    THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: 5 FREE PASSES WITH LARGE POP AND POPCORN COMBO WITH EACH PASS FOR LOCAL DONORS OR A VINTAGE 8x10 AUTOGRAPHED REPRODUCTION OF EITHER GARY COOPER, CLAUDETTE COLBERT, MARLENE DIETRICH, OR BING CROSBY. ALL EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS WILL BE LISTED ON OUR DONOR PAGE OF OUR WEBSITE

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    5 backers All gone!

    THE CATERER: YOU WILL GET THE CHANCE TO ADD OR CHANGE ONE OF OUR CURRENT FOOD COMBOS ON OUR MENU AND RENAME IT. ALL CATERERS WILL BE LISTED ON THE DONOR PAGE OF OUR WEBSITE

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    50 backers Limited (150 left of 200)

    THE CINEMATOGRAPHER: MONTH-LONG FREE PASS WITH 6 FREE POP AND POPCORN COMBOS FOR LOCAL DONORS OR ONE FULL-SIZED MOVIE POSTER CHOSEN AT RANDOM FROM OUR COLLECTION. ALL CINEMATOGRAPHERS WILL BE LISTED ON THE DONOR PAGE OF OUR WEBSITE AND ON THE BIG SCREEN DURING OUR PRE-SHOW ENTERTAINMENT

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    16 backers

    THE ELECTRICIAN: SEE YOUR NAME IN LIGHTS!!! I WILL SEND YOU A PHOTO OF YOUR NAME OR A SHORT MESSAGE UP ON THE HISTORIC PALACE MARQUEE. ALL ELECTRICIANS WILL BE LISTED ON THE DONOR PAGE OF OUR WEBSITE

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    22 backers

    THE SCREENWRITER: 6 MONTH FREE PASS WITH 10 FREE POP AND POPCORN COMBOS FOR LOCAL DONORS OR ONE 8"x10" PHOTO OF THE GRAND OPENING OF THE PALACE IN 1939. ALL SCREENWRITERS WILL BE LISTED ON THE DONOR PAGE OF OUR WEBSITE, ON THE BIG SCREEN DURING PRE-SHOW ENTERTAINMENT AND ON THE "WALL OF DONORS" IN OUR LOBBY

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    5 backers Limited (70 left of 75)

    THE DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: YOU AND UP TO 20 GUESTS CAN ENJOY A PRIVATE SHOWING. ALL DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY WILL BE LISTED ON THE DONOR PAGE OF OUR WEBSITE, ON THE BIG SCREEN DURING OUR PRE-SHOW ENTERTAINMENT, AND ON THE "WALL OF DONORS" IN OUR LOBBY

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    3 backers Limited (67 left of 70)

    THE LEAD ACTOR: ONE YEAR FREE PASS FOR LOCAL DONORS OR ONE FRAMED 8"x10" PHOTO OF THE GRAND OPENING OF THE PALACE IN 1939 OR A VINTAGE AUTOGRAPHED REPRODUCTION OF GARY COOPER, BING CROSBY, CLAUDETTE COLBERT, OR MARLENE DIETRICH. ALL LEAD ACTORS WILL BE LISTED ON THE DONOR PAGE OF OUR WEBSITE, ON THE BIG SCREEN DURING OUR PRE-SHOW ENTERTAINMENT, AND ON THE "WALL OF DONORS" IN OUR LOBBY

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    9 backers All gone!

    THE HEAD OF THE STUDIO: RECEIVE A "PALACE PASS" USE IT TO SEE AS MANY MOVIES AS YOU WANT AT THE PALACE FOR LOCAL DONORS OR A VINTAGE FILM TRAILER FROM THE 1970s. ALL STUDIO HEADS WILL BE LISTED ON THE DONOR PAGE OF OUR WEBSITE, ON THE BIG SCREEN, AND ON THE "WALL OF DONORS" IN OUR LOBBY

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    1 backer

    THE HEAD OF THE STUDIO: RECEIVE A "PALACE PASS" USE IT TO SEE AS MANY MOVIES AS YOU WANT AT THE PALACE. ALL STUDIO HEADS WILL BE LISTED ON THE DONOR PAGE OF OUR WEBSITE, ON THE BIG SCREEN, AND ON THE "WALL OF DONORS" IN OUR LOBBY

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    THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: CURRENTLY WE REFER TO OUR BIGGEST THEATER AS THE "KING" THEATER AND THE SMALLER SCREEN IS THE "QUEEN". ASST. DIRECTORS WILL BE GIVEN THE CHANCE TO RENAME ONE OF THE THEATERS. AND/OR NAME ONE OF THE AUDITORIUMS IN YOUR HONOR. A PLAQUE WITH THE NAME CHANGE WILL BE POSTED AT THE ENTRANCE TO EACH THEATER. ALL ASSISTANT DIRECTORS WILL BE LISTED ON OUR WEBSITE, ON THE BIG SCREEN, AS WELL AS ON OUR DONOR WALL IN THE THE LOBBY

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    2 backers

    THE DIRECTOR: RECEIVE: A VIDEO OR PERSONAL TOUR OF THE THEATER PRIOR-TO, DURING, AND POST- DIGITAL CINEMA CONVERSION, A PRIVATE SHOWING FOR YOU AND UP TO 100 GUESTS WITH UNLIMITED POP AND POPCORN DURING THE SHOW, AN 8"X 10" FRAMED PHOTO OF THE GRAND OPENING OF THE PALACE IN 1939, SEE YOUR NAME IN LIGHTS WITH A PHOTO OF YOUR NAME OR A SHORT MESSAGE ON THE HISTORIC PALACE MARQUEE, AND A FRAMED STRIP OF ACTUAL 35MM FILM. ALL DIRECTORS WILL BE LISTED ON OUR WEBSITE, ON THE BIG SCREEN, AS WELL AS ON OUR DONOR WALL IN THE THE LOBBY

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Funding period

- (60 days)