Aug. 31--After six months of fundraising to upgrade Mount Vernon's Lincoln Theatre with new digital equipment, theater staff are ready to celebrate, and the community is invited. An old favorite, the 1952 classic movie "Singin' in the Rain," will be the theater's premier movie using its new equipment in a free showing on Saturday, Sept. 14.
"The technology has changed really dramatically," said Sue Ellen Heflin, theater executive director.
The upgrade not only brings patrons new sights and sounds -- with brighter, crisper images and 7.1 Dolby Digital sound -- it also heralds the theater's survival.
"It means we can continue to show films," Heflin said.
While the Lincoln features other performances, like live music and theater, films have really been its bread and butter, Heflin said. Without them, the theater may not have been able to continue.
However, because the Lincoln shows many independent films and lacks the size of larger companies like AMC Entertainment Inc. and Regal Entertainment Group, the pricey new projectors needed to be funded through the theater.
"It was a real challenge for us," she said. "We had to raise over $100,000."
That's when the theater's administration sent out a call for help to their No. 1 fans: the community.
"I thought it was a compelling case for the community," Heflin said. "I believed, even though I'm relatively new to the theater, that people cared enough about the theater to make it happen."
And she was right. Between January and June of this year the theater surpassed its $100,000 goal, bringing in almost $102,000. Heflin said her original goal was to raise the money by September.
"Because the community values the Lincoln so much, they stepped right up," Heflin said. "We still have a strong community that likes to watch film on the big screen and come together as a family."
The change brings a new dimension to the theater -- not only metaphorically but physically as well. At some point, Heflin said, the Lincoln will be able to show 3D movies, although she's not sure how frequently or how expensive they will be.
Without the new projector, the theater probably wouldn't have been able to show any new movies when film studios in Hollywood stop producing the 35 mm film, reportedly sometime this year.
"I don't know what would have happened if it had folded," said Lincoln Theatre volunteer Lynn Anderson. "It would have been a real loss."
Anderson said she wasn't surprised the community rallied together to raise the funds -- the Lincoln Theatre has a special place in the hearts of residents, she said.
"The people in the valley really understand and appreciate what this theater does," she said.
(c)2013 the Skagit Valley Herald (Mount Vernon, Wash.)
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