Since late 2012, DCI has been working with state agency and private foundation partners to provide funding and technical assistance to independent theaters that are looking to convert to digital systems. To learn more about the Save Our Screens program, visit our website.
In January of 2014, the Vali-3 Theater in Monte Vista closed its doors. The cost of digital conversion was simply too difficult for the owners to financially justify; they donated the theater to the City of Monte Vista later that month. The City tried a number of ways to get the theater re-opened, including a Request for Proposals designed to attract local and statewide in reviving the theater. This process revealed, however, that the cost of converting three screens to digital proved financially unsound for a single organization, even without significant physical renovations.
When that potential did not materialize, Monte Vista struggled to find a suitable direction. The City Council and citizens became inspired by the success of other communities after receiving information from Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) showing that a theater could be taken on as a community project. Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) featured an enticing program, in conjunction with DCI, which could provide $20,000 towards the digitalization of the Vali 3 Theater. The City and its partners, including Bob Bryning, President of the Monte Vista Community Fund, began to contact organizations that had been successful in revitalizing movie theaters in their communities. This momentum lead to organizational meetings in Monte Vista that brought fundraisers, operational volunteers, and other stakeholders together and produced a targeted effort to the get the largest, 220-seat theater back in business first.
Kammie Cathcart, who is the inspiration and catalyst of a community effort for the Holly Theater in Holly, Colorado volunteered to come to Monte Vista and explain how their theater has been run successfully for over 25 years through volunteer efforts. Mrs. Cathcart’s impassioned speech motivated volunteers raise significant funds and form a volunteer group to ultimately run the theater. The Monte Vista Community Development Corporation (CDC) President Jim Poston took on the mantle of volunteer coordinator, while Bob Bryning and MVCF were able to partner with Rio Grande Savings and Loan to create a financial system that would work for operations. The fund raising efforts began to coalesce; a business plan for the theater was created and sent to OEDIT and DCI with a request for $20,000 in grant funds. The City was awarded the full grant amount and also received a very generous donation from local couple Ray and Colette Skeff.
The City Council also played a significant role in the re-vitalization of the building with the provision of long-term insurance and utility coverage for the effort. The City’s status in an Enterprise Zone allowed Mike Wisdom and others from the San Luis Valley Development Resource Group to provide Colorado tax credit enhancements for donors who contributed more than $100. Over the course of four months of concentrated work with volunteers and professionals, the theater regained its visible position and returned to life as an anchor in downtown Monte Vista.
On December 12th, 2014, the Vali-3 Theater re-opened its doors with a Friday, Saturday, Sunday showing of Polar Express. On the weekend of December 19th, 2014, the theater showed the first run film Night at the Museum. There has been a great turnout at the theater to date, and the volunteers have done an incredible job preparing the theater for weekend runs throughout 2015.
Fundraising for the Vali-3 continues, as the conversion costs total nearly $80,000 with equipment, installation and minor rehabilitation work continuing at the theater. Public Works Staff, under the direction of Rob Vance, made significant contributions to remove and demolish old equipment from the theater. Mrs. Cathcart’s connections to well-minded professionals allowed the City to get a significantly good price on the equipment and to obtain a booking agent with a strong sensibility and understanding of small theaters.
The City and the great core of volunteers who have worked on this project are looking forward to a bright future of film and fellowship in downtown Monte Vista.