One Barrington business helps another
The exterior of the Catlow Theater in Barrington. | Dave Shields~For Sun-Times Media.
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:08PM
BARRINGTON — The historic Catlow Theater in downtown Barrington is not only on track to stay open, but owners Tim O’Connor and Roberta Rapata are planning to upgrade the venue’s equipment to include a digital projector.
It was just a few months ago that O’Connor and Rapata were facing the daunting decision of closing the one-screen theater, but the Barrington-based Corporation for International Business helped save the Catlow with a platinum-level donation.
The theater, which has been on Barrington’s Main Street since 1927, is set to receive the upgrades during the coming months thanks to a successful fund-raising effort.
“We thought we’d have to go out of business,” O’Connor said. “This shows that people still care about smaller theaters.”
The fear of closing stemmed from a recent move by film studios nationwide to require all movie theaters to install digital projection equipment. Large multiplexes get subsidies for these purchases.
“But the small theaters with only one screen don’t get any benefits,” said Leslie August, vice president of the Corporation for International Business.
The local business, which gives film crews tax breaks when they travel internationally, has a strong connection to the film industry. August said many employees from the company’s Barrington office are long-time patrons of the Catlow.
“We didn’t want the theater to close down,” she said. “It brings a lot of character to the area.”
O’Connor and Rapata began their fund-raising efforts in July through Kickstarter, an online fund-raising platform in which nonprofits publish a page stating their case for donations. The Catlow set a goal of $100,000 to be raised by late September.
“We were lucky enough to get funded and we made our goal in a week,” said O’Connor, adding that there are lots of small theaters facing funding issues.
O’Connor said he was surprised at how many people responded to the Kickstarter page.
“We’ve had donations from people in Denmark, Sweden, England, all over,” he said.
The fund-raising, which is not yet complete, has exceeded $150,000. O’Connor, who has owned the Catlow since 1988, pledged that the theater will keep its tickets at $5. Concessions also are priced lower than larger theaters, he said.
“We try to make it family friendly,” O’Connor explained. “We don’t try to gouge our customers.”
O’Connor and Rapata also own Baloney’s restaurant, which is adjacent to the Catlow.
While he is not sure exactly when the digital projector will be installed, O’Connor is hoping to have it set up by the holiday season. The additional funds will likely be used to further upgrade the theater.
“We’re going to fix Catlow up again,” he said.