By Nancy Arsenault
For generations, Maynard’s eclectic Fine Arts Cinema has been the local and affordable movie option for Stow residents. That’s why the property’s new owners are hoping that Stow and surrounding towns will take up the challenge to ensure that this local landmark continues as a theatre well into the future.
This past spring, the building in which the theater is housed was sold to Maynard resident and local realtor, Melanie Perry, and Steve Trumble, a Hudson businessman. The two had a vision to repair and refresh the exterior and interior, restoring the historical architectural features and also to renovate the adjacent business space to attract a new tenant alongside the theater. The company leasing the space as a movie house continued on with the new owners, supportive of plans to improve the property.
“As of September 19, we have unexpectedly found ourselves not just owning the property, but being in the movie business, too,” said Perry. That was the date the pair was alerted to a notice affixed to the building by the tenant who unexpectedly shut the cinema down without any advance notice to employees or the new landlords, said Perry. Deco Entertainment closed up shop, leaving employees without jobs and some local residents upset over canceled birthday party plans at the facility. Perry and Trumble have not been able to make contact with Deco since that date and are at a loss to explain their tenant’s departure, as Deco was current with rent and appeared to be looking toward a future at the Maynard location.
A Movie House & Movies
The building owners have faced many challenges in repairing and renovating the building, parts of which date back to the 1800s, combining various styles of architecture and construction up through the 1940s. According to Perry, those challenges are being met with great results, but it’s the hurdle facing the movie business that has the pair scrambling for a solution.
By the end of 2013, all movie houses are required by the film industry to be fully digitized, whether the cinema is a 20 screen mega complex or a one screen family owned movie house. Perry said that printing and distributing first run films on 35mm will essentially be stopped by the end of 2013, meaning that movies will now only be printed digitally and distributed on a hard drive. “Printing and shipping all of these movies on 35mm, costs the film industry about $2,000 per movie. To put the same movie on a hard drive and ship it out is about $125,” said Perry of the savings the film industry will realize. To fully change over the equipment and screens in the Fine Arts will cost the pair about $200,000. Without a cinema tenant to finance these upgrades, the transfer of technology has fallen into their laps.
“We never intended to get into the movie business,” explained Perry, “but now we’re left with no choice. “ She said the Maynard facility, as of January 1, will no longer be able to offer first run movies without this upgrade. “We could become the kind of movie house that just shows indies or art films, which will still come on 35mm, but we think the community has come to expect and want first run movies right here in Maynard,” she said. While the film industry gave financial incentives to drive-ins to convert, they did not offer the same support to smaller community theaters, said Perry. “Many Mom and Pop operations just cannot afford this, and are going to go dark by the end of the year,” she said.
The pair quickly looked into forms of financing that could be acquired within the 90 days remaining before the Fine Arts is taken off film distribution lists. As their own loan potential has been met with the financing acquired to purchase and renovate the property, Perry and Trumble are looking to social media as the way to raise the $200K.
Perry is utlizing the growing use of fundraising sites on the internet to attack the problem head on and is confident that if word spreads wide enough and long enough, the money can be raised through internet donations, mostly made locally, to meet the December deadline.
The theater’s fundraising site, hosted by fundrazr.com, can be accessed through their website at fineartstheatreplace.com. Donations can be made through the secured PayPal system. In just the past week or so, $3400 has been raised, but there is still a long way to go in a short time, said Perry, who is grateful for all donations, of any size.
“Every cent of funds raised will go toward the digitization upgrade,” assured Perry, who is also exploring grant funding and corporate contributions to the effort, as well as publicity spread through television news stories and, she hopes, a piece on WVCB-TV’s “Chronicle” program. As the deadline for paperwork submission looms, Perry said roughly only 45 days remain for the group to raise the needed funds.
“We are hoping that people really want the Fine Arts to remain a vital part of the community. It has functioned as a movie house for 65 years and is really a local institution and a landmark for the area. We believe that its’ success will lead to a revitalized downtown, attracting more businesses and more people” said Perry. To that end, the pair is sprucing up the adjacent space which has attracted inquiries from bakeries and other eateries. ”We definitely see an eatery coming in there,” said Perry.
This coming Saturday, as part of the Maynard Oktoberfest, the Fine Arts Theatre will be hosting an Open House. “We will be happy to talk with anyone about our plans,” said Perry. In the meantime, the pair has hired a movie industry consultant to find a General Manager to start the cinema operating again, as first run movies can still be scheduled through December.