Opinion

Vashon Theatre: A worthy community investment | Editorial

Right now, Vashon Theatre is caught up in the biggest change in show business since talkies replaced silent pictures.

For more than 100 years, film projection has worked in the same way, with heavy reels of 35mm film threaded through projectors and beamed onto screens. Now, all that is changing fast as film studios demand a worldwide conversion to digital cinema. The final curtain will come down on celluloid, they predict, sometime in 2013.

Most owners of urban multiplexes have already made the switch, ponying up for digital projectors that cost as much as $100,000 each — systems that will save the studios a fortune in costs and that they promise will provide a more vivid viewing experience for movie-goers. But cash-strapped rural theaters — including Vashon’s 400-seat Art Deco landmark built in 1947 — are still racing to catch up.

A local nonprofit called Island GreenTech has come up with a great way to keep the lights on at Vashon Theatre. The group is raising money to purchase the new projector, which will then be housed in the theater on a lease-to-sale basis. In time, after GreenTech recoups what it spent on the system, it can use that money to help other Island businesses. Islanders have already donated more than $25,000 to the community-building cause. All told, the group hopes to raise enough money to cover the costs of the entire system.

Still, some might wonder why they should donate money to support any for-profit enterprise. To that, we’d counter that GreenTech’s plan will be a gift that keeps on giving to Vashon. It means jobs and a vibrant town core. It’s neighbors helping neighbors. And Vashon Theatre — what a place to begin. After all, it’s our window to the world, a place where an extraordinary art form winds its way into our collective consciousness.

For Eileen Wolcott, whose family bought the theater in 2003, running the theater has been a passion, maybe even an art form unto itself. She’s opened her doors for more than just films — Barack Obama’s inauguration, holiday carol sing-alongs, Oscar  night celebrations, kids’ birthday parties and concerts to raise money for Island nonprofits.

She’s also proved herself to be an able programmer, throwing art house, foreign and festival titles into the mix of Hollywood blockbusters. She’s made countless costly improvements and repairs to the facility, including installing new seats and a new sound system. She even puts real butter on the popcorn.

Wolcott, with her careful stewardship of this historic place, has proven herself a worthy custodian of our town’s temple of dreams.

That’s right: Vashon Theatre is the place where Islanders have gone to dream together for almost 50 years. We think that’s something worth preserving.

 

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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