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Theater solution being sought

September 21, 2012
Meg Alexander - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - "You can beat this dog, you can kick this dog, but it won't go away," says Dan Blaalid, who is persevering with his goal to bring a movie theater to Fairmont.

"I strongly feel this is a community asset that needs to be here," he said.

Blaalid purchased Five Lakes Cinema last year, but due to the high cost of purchasing new digital projection equipment, the venue shut down at the end of August. It's a predicament small-town theaters across the country are facing, with movie studios switching from 35mm film to a digital format, which is cheaper to reproduce and distribute.

The existing five-screen cinema, located on State Street near Winnebago Avenue, is out of the picture, according to Blaalid. Instead, he has his eye on a new location, near Walmart on the north end of town.

Blaalid has been discussing options with a developer, who would potentially partner in building a new theater, or rather, the shell of a new theater. In order to purchase the necessary equipment - projectors, seating, concession stands, etc. - Blaalid is hoping to form a non-profit organization, which would rent the facility from the developer. Blaalid would be the manager and rent the theater from the nonprofit.

"Based on my discussions with the developer, rent would be really reasonable," he said.

The neighboring town of Sherburn formed a nonprofit in order to save its theater. The community rallied, held fund-raisers and raised the money necessary to keep the facility open.

There are a few differences in the two situations though. For starters, Sherburn has only one screen, and Blaalid wants a venue with three to four screens.

"People ask, 'Why not just one?' But that's what kept us going was having multiple selections," Blaalid said. "People would drive 50 miles without knowing what was playing, and they were able to pick a movie because we had enough choices."

The price tag for the project as Blaalid envisions it is $600,000 - an increase from the $450,000 needed to upgrade the projector system at the old theater.

With the digital equipment, the projectors would be able to show more than just movies. Xbox Live tournaments, Superbowl games, music concerts and corporate events are just a few of the ways the theater could be used. The new venue also would have full surround sound and the ability to show 3D films.

Raising money for the new theater's equipment would be the nonprofit's responsibility, and Blaalid has $135,000 to contribute to the cause.

At this point, he is trying to get feedback to see if individuals and businesses are interested in donating to a nonprofit theater. He also would need community members willing to serve on the nonprofit organization's board of directors.

"I think a town of this size should have a theater," Blaalid said. "We were doing very well. If we had kept going, we would have been way in the black."

To contact Blaalid, email him at: fivelakescinema@yahoo.com

 
 

 

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