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How Kickstarter Helped Save A Small Town Theater

How Kickstarter Helped Save A Small Town Theater

by Brad MerrillMay 13, 2013

The city of Highland, Illinois, is a quaint, small town in the heart of the Midwest with everything you would expect—great schools, active parents, an attractive town square, and even a locally-owned theater. But without the support of the town, that theater was in jeopardy of closing for the second time in just two years.

The Lory Theater turned to Kickstarter for help in saving its rich history, one that goes back over a century. It opened its doors in 1912 as an open-air live theater venue called the Columbia Opera House, and it was later renamed the Lory Theater in 1932. Inside, audiences have experienced all kinds of entertainment from opera, vaudeville, burlesque, silent, talkie, and Technicolor films.

[wpcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]With the closest major theater half an hour away, it’s easy to see why so many people want to save it. That’s not all, though—it also offers singing ushers, fun promotions and contests, and even a locally-made soft drink called Ski.[/wpcol_1half] [wpcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””][styled_box title=”Ski” class=”sb_purple”]Ski is similar to Mountain Dew, but made with pure cane sugar and packing more caffeine at 69mg in a 12oz can (compared to Mountain Dew’s 54mg).[/styled_box][/wpcol_1half_end]

New owners Justin and Hillary McLaughlin purchased the Lory in 2012 after it had closed its doors in July 2011. They invested in a three-month renovation process and reopened the theater the day after Christmas last year. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, they were only able to renovate the bathrooms and one of the two auditoriums.

The Lory Theater’s 35mm projector

Being an older theater, the Lory was still projecting movies using 35mm reels of film on equipment from the 1970s. With the Digital Cinema Initiative looming, the Lory desperately needed help to replace its current equipment and go digital. To do that, they needed to raise $57,000.

Kickstarter was the solution. If you’re not familiar, Kickstarter is an online “crowdfunding” platform that helps people fund their creative projects. It’s all or nothing, though—you set your goal, and if you don’t meet it, you don’t get anything.

Last week, Justin and Hillary obliterated their goal with the support of 599 backers, raising $69,864—that’s $12,864 more than their goal. This additional money will fund additional repairs such as marquee improvements, new air conditioning, concession stand updates, and more.

There’s no doubt that one of the main reasons for this much support is the unique, lovable nature of the Lory Theater’s owners. In a small town, it’s easy to get to know others and really take pride in your community. The community of Highland is clearly behind the Lory, and it should be interesting (and exciting) to see how this new funding can boost it into a new era. See the video below:

Kickstarter projects really show the power of people coming together for a common goal, and how that can impact our communities.

About The Author
Brad Merrill
Brad Merrill is the founder and former editor of VentureBreak.