Hampton Arts Cinema, the movie theater of Westhampton Beach, is in danger of closing its doors for good.
The movie industry has decided to forgo the use of print film, which the cinema still relies on. By the end of the year, the industry will distribute movies solely in a digital format, requiring the cinema to purchase new equipment that it currently can’t afford. To help save the theater, the Hampton Arts Cinema has chosen to fundraise using the website Kickstarter.
Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform for creative projects. What’s unique about the website is that it runs on an all-or-nothing concept. Project creators establish their own fundraising goal and deadline, but if the target isn’t reached by that date, none of the monetary pledges are collected.
After seeing the success of other small theaters on Kickstarter, the Hampton Arts Cinema joined the website and set a goal to collect $125,000 by August 30. According to Laurie Rubick, the manager of the Hampton Arts Cinema, reaching this goal would give the theater enough money to replace all of its old equipment, even after Kickstarter takes its 5% fee. The project has accumulated $2,341 in pledges as of Friday evening.
Making the switch to digital equipment means getting rid of bulky and outdated film platters, eliminating the need for physical film, and concentrating everything onto a small piece of hardware that is similar to a flash-drive. But easing the screening process is only one perk of digital technology. Rubick says the new equipment will also give the cinema a chance to enhance its services. “The sound will be better. The picture will be better. We could stream operas and sporting events. We can even do gaming.”
And that’s not all. “The landlord said if we reach our goal and are able to stay a theater, then he would buy a new heating and air conditioning system that we desperately need. So [the theater] will be all brand new.” These new cost-effective heating systems may even help the cinema stay open all year long, rather than closing for a few months each winter as it has in recent years.
If the cinema doesn’t hit its $125,000 target, no further fundraising is planned. The cinema would shutter by the end of the year when its equipment becomes obsolete.
The Hampton Arts Cinema has an 87-year history in Westhampton Beach. It opened in 1927 as a playhouse under the name Hampton Star Theater. The theater began to show movies in the 1940s and since has been an iconic fixture of Westhampton Beach. Many community members can remember the cinema as an important part of their childhood, including Rubick. The theater manager has been part of the Hampton Arts Cinema for over 20 years, starting as a candy girl in 1990 when she was in high school.
“We’re trying to save the theater for the community,” Rubick says. “So many businesses are closed. There aren’t many places for people to go out and do things.”
The Hampton Arts Cinema is not like other Long Island movie theaters. The cinema makes going to the movies affordable with its famous “5 Dollar Tuesdays.” In addition to showing first-run movies, the theater hosts birthday parties, offers private showings, and displays local art.
What many people may not know is special about the theater is that the staff pops the popcorn right there. Most theaters today do not actually make popcorn on-site, Rubick points out. The Hampton Arts Cinema offers fresh, house-made popcorn daily and Rubick says it’s what has kept the theater afloat. Most of the money from ticket sales goes straight back to the movie industry. So if you can’t afford to make a pledge to the theater, Rubick suggests coming see a movie but, more importantly, buying a bag of popcorn.
For those who are interested in making a pledge, the cinema is offering a slew of thank you gifts, including on-screen advertisements, signature seat rows in supporters’ names, private parties, and VIP passes that grant unlimited film admission for one year.
For more information on saving the Hampton Arts Center, go to the Kickstarter page.