Volunteers garner thousands for Vashon Theatre’s digital conversion campaign

Islanders raising money for the Vashon Theatre say they’ve garnered $52,000 in five weeks, enough to place an order for the digital equipment the theater’s owner needs to keep up with sweeping changes in technology.

Tag Gornall, a member of Island GreenTech, the group spearheading the fundraising effort, said Monday volunteers still need to raise another $20,000 to cover all the costs of new digital projection equipment. But the theater has to order the equipment this month to ensure it arrives in time to show films available only in a digital format this fall, he said, so GreenTech members and theater owner Eileen Wolcott decided to place the order now.

Gornall said he was delighted and encouraged by the steady stream of support the effort has drawn, which has come in the form of both small and large checks, cash and anonymous contributions. During the Strawberry Festival, he added, GreenTech volunteers staffed a booth with a popcorn bucket acting as a donation jar. They raised more than $6,000, he said.

The support, he added, “was coming from people in the community you wouldn’t expect. The names, for the most part, weren’t familiar to me.”

Because of the effort’s momentum, Gornall said, he feels confident the fundraising effort will reach its goal of $72,500.  Those who donate, unless they ask to remain anonymous, will see their names on the “screen crawl” at the end of movies this fall, he added.

“We thought that would be fun,” he said.

Meanwhile, GreenTech and Wolcott have worked out an agreement about how she’ll pay back the community for its contributions to the historic movie house.

Initially, GreenTech planned to lease the equipment to her, allowing her to buy it from the small nonprofit over time. Instead, he said, GreenTech members and Wolcott decided she’ll waive the rental costs for the theater for Vashon nonprofits, charging them only for cleaning and any Vashon Theatre staff they need for their event.

What’s more, GreenTech, not Wolcott, will own the equipment.

“The payback is to the community,” Gornall said. “When and if Eileen sells, the arrangement continues. … We want the community to benefit from this.”

The fundraising effort got underway in June after Island GreenTech, a group of Islanders who work to support Vashon entrepreneurs, learned that Wolcott needed to pony up tens of thousands of dollars to handle a seismic shift in the industry. By this fall, experts say, most studios will issue films only in a digital format, not as heavy reels of 35 mm film.

Without the conversion, Wolcott said, she would soon no longer be able to show new releases. She had planned to take out a small business loan to fund the conversion. But the fundraising plan, she says, means she won’t have to incur more debt at the small, family-run movie house.


Donations are being accepted at the Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union or at the Vashon Theatre during the evenings or on weekends. Or mail a donation to GreenTech, P.O. Box 1847, Vashon.



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