To the Editor:
The screen is still dark and questions are being raised - what is going on with the Movie Theatre downtown?
March 8, 2013 the last movie was shown at the Webster City Movie Theatre. A community meeting was held to discuss how to save the movie theatre. Since that time in April, there have been a few citizens working on the planning committee to create a way to open the theatre.
Working with Cindy Scheiber from North Central Small Business Development Center the planning team has been writing a business plan. It was decided in a meeting with three local, business owners that we needed a working plan to determine if saving the theatre was even possible. What were all the costs involved in a day to day business? Who would attend the movies? How many seats need to be filled to make it at least a break even project? A good business plan will address this and the planning committee is flushing those facts and figures out, with the help of Cindy.
The planning committee has met with Jim Davies from Hampton to see what they did to save their theatre. We traveled to Jefferson and Clarion to visit with those theatres to see what worked for them. One member went to Fargo, ND and toured their nonprofit theatre and picked up helpful tips.
The planning team did make an offer of $7,500 to Wells Fargo Bank for purchase of the building. We have a backer who said if they accept that offer, he will write the check. They did not accept the offer, in fact, they did not even counter.
It was decided this would be a great 501 (c)3 project. That means it could be a community run, nonprofit project. Having that designation allows for applying for grants, accepting donations that people could claim on their taxes and the ability to create an endowment fund in the future. We are looking into applying for a hotel/motel grant to fund the process of applying for the 501 (c) 3. Jordan and Mahoney Law firm have agreed to help with the process at no charge and a CPA is being looked for as well. This cost will range in the $1,300 ballpark to finish the paperwork and pay the fees associated with becoming a 501 (c)3
This nonprofit group needs a name. What a better place to find help than the entrepreneurial class at the Webster City High School?
Students Nelson Ball, John Brandt, Alex Dickinson, Ryan Ferrari, Connor Foster, Libby Hanson, Baylee Janvrin, John Maubach, Jess Miller, Jordan Moen, Taylor Olson, Ratana Phiwthong, Ashlynn Shivers, Kyle Schook, Brianna Tincher, Skylar Traster, and Logan Yates stepped up to the challenge. They did some brainstorming on name ideas and here are the top three, written in order of popularity voted by the class:
1. Helping to Entertain and Restore Organization (HERO)
2. TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More)
3. Volunteer Organization to Entertain Downtown (VOTED)
At first the students were more focused on naming the theatre and so their teacher Julie Kramersmeier had to steer them towards naming the organization. Then they visited the theatre one morning to get a feel of the empty space and see what kind of work will be needed to complete this project. Next they will start focusing on a mission statement and goals.
We agree with the students, HERO is a clear winner! It has a broad enough range in the name to be used for other projects in the community and don't we all want to be Hero's? The planning team has met with a Ryan Mahoney who will work with us on creating the 501 (c)3 and this could take months to complete.
What is next? Finishing the business plan is first. The members of the planning committee all work and time is limited for writing the plan. Yet, we will continue. It is believed another month and that portion should be completed. Some of the easy numbers are:
$45,000 for the building
$75,000 for the digital upgrade and sound system
$10,000 for repairs to the building
But there are so many other things to consider. How much will be spent on items like tickets, popcorn, supplies for cleaning, bills every month, insurance and more. We are meeting with the students on the Nov. 25 to go over the business plan as part of their classroom activities.
Then it's time to call another community meeting and lay out the plan, discuss what is possible, and decide if it can be done. We do know that if the numbers flush out, this project will not work unless the entire community is behind it. We believe it has to be a grass roots campaign to become a real HERO. Without the support of the Webster City, it won't happen. We hope you'll help HERO become a reality and save the movie theater.
Jeff Pingel, Jake Pulis
and Deb Brown