BRUNSWICK — The owner of the Eveningstar Cinema is taking a creative approach to keep his business alive as the film industry converts to an expensive new format.
Barry Norman has been planning to build a new multi-screen theater in the Brunswick Station area since January, but now he is openly seeking funds from the public to get the project going.
“With about a thousand theaters to close next year because of the conversion to digital, this could show that something like this is viable,” Norman said this week. “If I can build this theater, this would be a national story.”
By Oct. 30, Norman hopes to raise $250,000 through IndieGogo.com, a crowd-funding website. But with less than two weeks left, he has only raised $1,595 – less than one percent of his fundraising goal.
Norman said he has nothing to lose, and he will directly seek to court investors, banks and developers if he doesn’t raise enough money. And he will also refund contributions if the project doesn’t happen.
Since courting investors and developers is part of the plan either way, Norman said, the money raised through Indiegogo would be an easy way to show that people support the idea.
“This is the kind of anchor business that attracts people and if you attract people, other businesses will come,” Norman said.
In his 27-page business plan, Norman also points out that his current theater has grossed more money for independent film screenings than Railroad Square Cinema, a three-screen theater in Waterville that was included in the Sundance Film Institute’s “Art House Project.”
Earlier this year, the town received more than 27 letters in support of Norman’s new cinema – even though the town would play no part in its development until funds are fully raised and construction of the building is formally proposed.
“One reason was to make sure that I’m in the public officials’ consciousness as something that people value in the community,” Norman said in June. “The other thing – obviously the No. 1 obstacle to any project like this – is funding. I thought ‘this is one more possible way to shake the bushes.'”
When Norman bought the theater in 2010, he said he thought running a one-screen theater was going to be easy. But ultimately he found it to be limiting, because he had to pass up some releases.
If the owner gets help to start the new Eveningstar Cinema, he said he wouldn’t face the threat many theaters are facing from the expensive switch to a digital format.
“The studios and distributors are going to stop making 35mm film,” Norman said. “If you want to move forward as a business, you have to convert.”