After two months of debate, the Batesville City Council has come to the rescue of the Gibson Theatre.
Council President Gene Lambert sponsored a request May 12 to earmark Belterra riverboat revenue-sharing funds to help purchase a digital projector for the Gibson Theatre. The facility’s obsolete machine, which dates back to the 1950s or 1960s, can only project 35-millimeter movies. Soon new films will be in digital format only, leaving the Gibson with nothing current to show.
Mayor Rick Fledderman told members the theater, operated by Kim Powell, is in the process of becoming a nonprofit venture and “there is a board that will be overseeing it.”
Member Darrick Cox suggested tabling the request until learning if a Kickstarter campaign was successful and members agreed. The mayor observed, “The theater is something we’ve all taken for granted … If it wasn’t here, we’d have everybody disappointed and regretting it.”
Powell reported June 9 $18,438 was pledged by persons across the country (some out-of-towners grew up here, others just love vintage one-screen movie theaters and don’t want them to die) during the online Kickstarter effort, but slightly under that actually was received, $15,750. After a Saturday open house and contributions trickling in from other sources during the past six weeks, $16,920 more was collected for an amazing total of $32,670.
Because a new digital projector costs about $50,000, Powell is going after a used one priced around $38,000-$40,000 that would be coming from a Kerasotes theater in Minnesota.
The theater operator said he needed funding by the end of June “or it will close.”
The Rev. David Johnston of St. John’s United Church of Christ got involved in saving the theater when he approached Powell about wanting to show “Heaven is for Real” and “God is not Dead,” “but they’re both digital ... Last week, for instance, I couldn’t get a film until Wednesday” as Powell searched for a nondigital one.