Since ANCA (Adirondack North Country Association ) started the campaign “Go Digital or Go Dark,” we at the Palace Theatre have experienced many ups and downs.
First some ups: the very first ‘on-line’ donation on April 1 was from my nephew David Hunkins, now living in Connecticut. The first donation given to us directly at the theatre was from Ben Cross, a very frequent movie goer and good friend. The donation money brought into the Palace by the Wilson family of Saranac Lake, which was from a lemonade and brownie sale; the donation from our granddaughter, made by parking cars during “Ironman;” The 11 year old Lake Placid boy who requested donations to help save the Palace instead of Birthday gifts; The $5 given to us by an eight-year old Canadian girl after she saw the movie trailer, “that showed how the theatres need donations or else they would be closed.” She wrote a nice note saying she visited Lake Placid every year, “I hope you will stay open so I can come back and see you again;” a very generous donation from the Lockwood family; Donations from The Builders Club (a youth division of Kiwanis) and the Kiwanis Club “Teddy Bear Picnic” fundraiser; The support from the LPCS Class of 2013 and the Alumni Association with their respective generous donations; The fundraiser that Smoke Signals held for us, and most recently the Zumbathon Fund Raiser. Donations from family-friends-business associates have many times brought tears to our eyes. Summer visitors from all corners of the United States, also our Canadian visitors, have sent donations after attending a movie at the Palace, and many people have made second donations—we thank you all!!!
Now some Downs. Newspaper articles, most out of Albany early on in the ”Go Digital or Go Dark” campaign (July 12 article) stated that the Palace was halfway to its goal (although a correction was made the next day). This misinformation did not help us!!! Although the article did contain much good information, like how raising our admission prices would only put money in the pockets of Hollywood, as we pay a percentage (usually about 60 percent) of our gross ticket sales to them, and how Hollywood requires us to play their movies until they make hardly any money (this is why we really need our small 48 seat theatre to be converted to digital also). Then there were many articles about how $400,000 was available to help theatres with digital conversions, all from different New York State sources. THESE ALL WERE LOANS—short term, for five years, and even at a possible low 4 percent rate, to borrow $100,000.00 (we still need more than that amount), payments would be $1,850 per month (NBT Bank figures). We do not make enough money to guarantee payments in this amount: I have to say this—the most recent headline, ”$4000,000 available for theatre upgrades,” quotes Gov. Cuomo, “Across the Adirondacks movie theatres have been struggling to take on costly upgrade projects to stay in business... Faced with this reality, business and community leaders came together through the Regional Council Initiative to create the Digital Film Conversion Loan Fund, which will help small town cinemas in the North Country modernize their equipment and remain competitive... This is another example of how public –private partnerships are helping to promote economic growth in communities across the state.” Any business person knows offering such loans is just a bunch of political words, like blowing smoke into the wind.
One more source for funding was an offer to partner with a non-profit, The Adirondack Film Society, thus making us eligible for a grant through the Council for the Arts. I will not get into all of the drawbacks re-written into the contract, but the bottom line always was that the non-profit would own the digital machines, even if a second machine was purchased with a very small amount of grant funds and mostly Palace monies. This would mean the Film Society would own two of the Palace Theatre digital machines. We declined to sign this contract! I understand that the Film Society then moved on to partner with the Strand in Schroon Lake.
We are happy to announce that Monday evening our 1926 original downstairs theatre screen saw its last ‘first-run’ movie projected using 35 mm film. When we re-open this theatre, it will be with digital projection. We were able to order this equipment because donations were made directly to the Palace and were placed in a special “digital” account. The other half, $31,000, will be paid from the on-line credit card donations and those made through ANCA. Now we are halfway there! We again thank everyone and ask for your continued donations to help keep our business a viable one on Main Street. Please support us with your attendance even though we may have limited movie choices after the end of the year when film ceases to be produced.
Reg and Barbara Clark