Friday, January 18, 2013

The Beltonian's Grand Vision

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I’m bringing you a bit of local flavor by talking to Roy from Belton, TX who brings us The Beltonian’s Grand Vision: A Cinema/Comedy Club Hybrid.  Thank you for joining us today Roy!

Hello and thank you for having me.  It is great to be here.

Your title is quite a mouthful, would you care to expound on it and give us all the details?  

When I first bought The Beltonian, I had a Grand Vision in mind for it.  We would be a second run value cinema during the week and on weekend matinees and a professional comedy club on weekend evenings.  This vision was based on the fact that the vast majority of discount cinema patrons are made up of families who would be more drawn towards the matinee shows, leaving the evenings available for more mature comedic entertainment.  Unfortunately, as soon as I purchased the building, the funds that I had ready to acquire the digital projector got pulled out from under me, so we currently only run The Beltonian as the comedy club.  With my history in movie theaters and the community’s wish for The Beltonian to be a cinema again, I felt it necessary to make that initial Grand Vision a reality by any means available to me.

With such a local project what makes you bring it to Kickstarter?  Aren’t local fundraisers normally better for projects like this?

Yes and no.  The survival of small historic cinemas is a nationwide project.  The Beltonian is a Historical Landmark and the best way to keep it in shape is to keep it operating.  I bought the theater after it had been shut down by the last owners and so much work had been put into its renovation at that time, I just could not bear to see it’s auditorium sit empty without purpose.  Although this project does benefit the local community more than anybody else, it is still part of the national scene.  Not just through its historical preservation but also the larger economy.  The Beltonian is located in a historical downtown area where many, if not all, of the small businesses are trying to keep their doors open after losing the cinema years ago.  Bringing the movie theater back would go a long way in stimulating this local economy and providing more jobs.  Even though this stimulation would be local, it is still a clear way for anyone nationwide to know that their generous pledge not only saved a historic landmark but also helped provide jobs for those who needed them, and not just at the theater itself but in multiple other small businesses as well who all benefited from the cinema’s re-opening.

Our Kickstarter Campaign also allows anyone, local or not, who is of a giving heart to help those in need as well.  All of our pledge rewards can be given as charitable donations.  We here at The Beltonian are working with the local charitable foundations to find families/individuals who are going through a real tough time in life right now and could use some time to get away and relax, and are giving them that opportunity though our backers’ generosity.  The Beltonian will also be able to continue its charitable work as well with the re-opening of the movie theater portion of the business, as our canned food drive and outdoor toy drive will greatly benefit from the large increase in foot traffic that the movie theater will provide... Not to mention the affordable entertainment that a discount cinema brings to those who can not afford to spend much money during these difficult economic times.

What got you involved with this project?

I have spent almost all of my working life in movie theaters.  It has been a dream of mine to one day own and operate my own cinema.  Combine that with my love of history, and The Beltonian was the perfect fit.  I also truly wanted to help this community, and I knew that bringing this cinema back to life would do so in many many ways.  Whether it was helping increase sales for the nearby small businesses, or providing more jobs during a time when jobs are more important than ever, or helping charities expand their outreach for donations, or by just providing a more affordable way for families to be able to get out and have some fun, without spending more than they can really afford to right now.

How hard is it working on a building that’s over 100 years old?  I would imagine much of your budget goes to just keeping the building standing!  

Luckily for me the building had recently gone through two massive renovations before I purchased it.  These renovations went a long way in preserving The Beltonian, however even now there is already some wear and tear which we will have to address pretty soon.  The increased business with the cinema will definitely go a long way in making sure this historical landmark stays in good shape for another 100 years.

As a former projectionist I know exactly how old, yet reliable, standard 35mm projectors are.  Are you currently still using a classic projector to play classic movies or are you just building up funds to get the digital projector for second run films?   

Unfortunately one of the previous owners took the 35mm projector out when he closed the theater down, so we currently are without any way of showing Hollywood movies before they hit DVD.  As someone who also spent many years threading projectors I do miss the experience that film projectors gave you.  I used to love watching the film as it ran through all of the gears and being able to actually touch, feel, and build a movie...  I had actually discussed putting a film projector back into The Beltonian when I first got it, however once I discovered that the Hollywood shortage of film product would result in me not being able to get any movies... well, there really was no point.  So, at this time, yes, we are focusing fully on going digital as that will be the only way you can operate a theater by the end of the year.

How much of a gamble is a digital projector?  I mean 35mm projectors have been around for decades and even with digital sound system upgrades the base projector was the same.  Is your projector going to be “out of date” in five years thanks to updates in tech and projecting formats?

 There is that risk, however I believe that it will be very minimal.  The exhibition industry has spent millions upon millions of dollars in changing over to digital so that the Hollywood studios could save money on film distribution costs, therefore I don’t really see these digital projectors going out of date very soon.  The exhibition industry will just simply not allow it to happen.  Not after such a huge investment.  And as great as Hollywood is, without the exhibitors to show their movies, they will lose multi-millions in revenue as well.  If anything, all upgrades (such as high frame rate) will be simply added to the existing digital projectors now in place, as Hollywood knows that this kind of massive shift from one kind of projector to the next is not going to happen again.

Since you use it for a comedy club now do you also produce plays and other live events in the same space?  Dinner theater sounds right up your space’s alley!  

We are open to having plays, musicians, or other live events here, but have thus far continuously run into scheduling issues.  As we are a professional comedy club, our shows are always the same days and times, no matter what.  We can not cancel a Friday night or Saturday night comedy show for live music or to perform a play, and since those are the main times that live music and plays are performed...  However, when the time comes that a live event will not need those times for their performances, then yes, we will be more than happy to have them in our venue.

What’s the plan for the theater after this campaign is over?  Both if you succeed and if you don’t make the goal?

  If we are successful?  Open the only discount cinema in the entire area and provide a more affordable way for people to see movies, where tickets only cost $2-$3 instead of $6-$9 and where customers are waited on in their seats, not served in line.  Of course this would mean hiring more people and increasing the hours of our current staff which, believe me, they would greatly appreciate.  If Not?  Keep trying to do whatever we can to get the digital projector we need.  Without the cinema, The Beltonian will not be able to bring in enough revenue to keep the doors open for as long as we would like.  We want this historic cinema to last the ages, and for that it needs to be restored to what it once was... a movie theater.

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

We are looking into offering special pledge promotions, project stories/videos, comedy show incentives/updates, and promoting this interview of course.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to follow your progress?  

We are working with our local news outlets (newspapers, radio, and tv), , , our local chamber of commerce and downtown business association, and Twitter at this time.  We are looking into adding YouTube and Google+ to our toolbox as well very soon.  We are new to Kickstarter and are not aware of Kicktraq, so thank you for telling me about it.  Me and my guys will look into it ASAP.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Try your best to get awareness of your campaign out before you launch.  It is better to have people waiting to pledge ahead of time.  That includes any media which you are wanting to help you spread the word.  And don’t get discouraged.  You may start off slow in pledges, but if you let it get to you all it will do is slow down your efforts, which will not help in the long run.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?   

This campaign is all about creating a Win-Win Situation for everybody.  Everything I have created or done within this Kickstarter campaign has that concept in mind.  No matter how anyone is involved, it will be a “Win” for them to be involved.  If you want to be a part of something that is fully intended to be a greater good for everyone around it or near it, then this is that something for you.  It is a project that will benefit thousands of people in ways that they will never forget.  Whether it is helping them through charity or with employment, or allowing them to re-live their past by being able to watch a movie in the same theater they did so before as kids, or helping their small business bring in more revenue so they can in turn pass it along to others through more jobs and charitable givings.  Help us to help others.  Thank You for reading this and Thank You for your support.

We look forward to seeing you at The Movies!

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

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