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December 5, 2012

Town hopes to save its movie theater

SALEM, Mass. — Paul Van Ness hopes Hollywood’s move to new technology won’t result in the showing of the last picture show at his downtown theater.

In a campaign called "Save Cinema Salem,"  Ness is trying to raise $60,000 to purchase equipment to convert his Museum Place Mall theater to digital movie projection, a technology upgrade mandated by the Hollywood studios. Without the funds, he says the theater can’t stay open, or at least can’t continue as a first-run movie house.

“There are already a bunch of movie theaters that have gone out of business because they are not able to come up with the money to go through this transition,” Van Ness said. “If we don’t succeed in making this transition, there’s no way we can stay in business because there will be no films for us to show.”

Although his small, first-run cinema has gained a foothold in the community, Van Ness said the business does not have the funds for this large, one-time payment. Thus, he is seeking donations through a website set up to raise money for creative projects and other ventures.

Using a concept called “crowd funding,” via Kickstarter, a website set up to raise money for creative projects, is a way for a large number of individuals to make donations to a business or cause. Similar campaigns have been successful at small independent community theaters around the country, Van Ness said.

“It’s an opportunity for people to vote for what kind of downtown we want, what kind of movie-going experience we’re going to have,” he said. “It’s kind of a time for people to think about what they value.”

Launched Tuesday, the Kickstarter campaign raised more than $2,000 in the first few hours. As of Tuesday night, the total was nearly $12,500.

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