— by Margie Doyle —
“I am blown away,” Donna Laslo said on Friday after announcing that the purchase order had been put in for a successfully-negotiated digital projection system that will provide the “heart transplant” needed to keep the Sea View Theatre going. “John [Mount, Sea View owner and I are so grateful for the island’s generosity.”
The movie-making industry has changed since we were kids, Laslo noted, and Orcas Island was in danger of losing the public place where people could see movies together when cinema went fully digital last year. No more 35 millimeter films were being sent to movie houses such as the Sea View, which John Mount has owned and operated for 53 years.
The Sea View has never been about making a profit, but Mount simply lacked the funds to upgrade to the modern equipment. That’s where Donna Laslo came in, and started the Save the Sea View Theatre campaign.
A 45-day Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign was launched to raise $55,000 for the new projection system. When the online fund donations closed about a month ago, the effort was still short about $20,000. (To view the campaign video produced by Rock Island Media, go to indiegogo.com/save-the-sea-view-theatre )
But checks continued to come in to the Save the Seaview Theatre account at Islander’s Bank and to the website. “We’d like to thank people for their patience during this period since the campaign on-line officially closed,” said Laslo.
“Now thanks to Red Digital Cinema and BARKO Inc. projection company, we got the best projector for the price. As of April 9, our savings account had $56,000. That will cover what we have to pay almost exactly for the total amount.” In fact, the fund-raisers were able to purchase the latest, upgraded version of the projection system.
In exchange for the donations owner John Mount has filed a legal covenant that binds the building’s use restricted primarily to that
“That’s the main reason John Mount has been dedicated to keep operating the theater as kind of a break-even venture. Nobody is getting rich off this movie theater but it’s a service, especially for the kids who need a gathering place.”
Now the theatre rescuers will start the process to deliver the donation rewards — movie vouchers, t-shirts and a Red Carpet Gala. And there is work still be done, Laslo’s the first to admit. Plans call for painting, installing a sidewalk and improving the entryway, making the Marquee Lounge to the west of the theatre proper a comfortable gathering area in itself.
Donations of labor, supplies and equipment “sweat equity” are always welcome, and will be compensated with Sea View Theatre movie tickets. Down the road, a campaign to replace the seats with individually-named seats will upgrade the comfort factor at the theatre.
The overall vision, says Laslo is to restore the Sea View to a “heritage” theater with a new twist, new “knees.”
“It’s kind of crazy to build a movie theater in a population like ours. But 53 years ago, it was the only game in town, there was no Orcas Center, no videotapes or internet. Now people no longer have to work so hard to see a movie at home, but people want a shared experience — an American experience,” Laslo says.
Providing this experience makes the Sea View Theatre more than a private business, says Laslo. “It’s a community service. We need to respond to different needs, and movies can be an extremely valuable social engagement, especially with teens and kids — they want to see it together.
The Sea View is also a meeting place, a multi-use building for some “live” events such as the SuperBowl live broadcast, burlesque and magic shows.” In addition, the Marquee Lounge, located in what had been the video cassette and DVD rental store in the same building, has the potential for limited food and membership services, as well as another gathering place.
And as improvements happen, the business will be healthier — not just for the Sea View, but for other businesses around the Eastsound “core.”
Laslo says, “My fear was a for rent sign would go up, or the building would be bulldozed and a new building would be for rent. Losing the movie theater wasn’t only losing another fun place to go, because when a movie theater in a small town goes out of business it is not good for all other businesses on the island.”
“All the funds raised came from over 250 donors — the community saved the theatre,” said Laslo. “The new projector was ordered on Thursday, and thanks to a significant local supporter, the system had been set aside for our likely purchase, so it should be shipped in the next two weeks, then installed and the switchover will happen.
“And then we’ll have one heck of a party! It’s awesome!”