The BG Theater needs $300,000 to stay open
Movie-goers line up for drinks and snacks earlier this month at the Buffalo Grove Theater. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Those who wish to support the BG theater can do so by buying ticket and concessions packages in advance.
The money from those sales will be used to buy the digital systems. The theater is offering 11 packages, ranging from $20 to $1,000. Benjamin pledged that, if the fundraiser fails, all donations can be refunded.
The packages can be viewed at www.bgtheater.com/fundraiser.asp.
Purchases must be made at the theater.
Updated: December 5, 2012 10:00AM
BUFFALO GROVE — As her guests walk by, Debbie Benjamin greets some of them by name and asks which movie they are about to see in her Buffalo Grove Theater.
Benjamin knows some of these customers well enough to tell them that the film they are about to watch may be too scary or too romantic for their tastes. She tells others they are about to have a great time.
The Buffalo Grove Theater, 120 McHenry Road, has earned a regular customer base through its niche, but it may have to branch far beyond that group to stay in business. A major, capital expense is looming, and unless Benjamin’s fund-raising activity works, the independently operated theater may close next year.
“They are not going to ship any more film, period,” said Benjamin, explaining that if she cannot buy a digital projector and sound system in the next few months, she will have no movies left to show.
The theater has long spun 35-millimeter films on its five silver screens, but all of the major studios are switching exclusively to digital files of their movies. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, the major studios will not ship film copies of their movies to theaters, and any theater that does not have digital projectors will have nothing to project.
That gives theaters until April of next year to raise the approximately $300,000 it will need to convert its auditoriums.
Rather than raise her prices — a ticket to the BG Theater is currently $7, far below newer and digital competitors — Benjamin has begun a fund-raising campaign.
A fund-raising campaign recently saved Barrington’s Catlow Theater, but co-owner Tim O’Connor noted that his operation had a few advantages. The Catlow occupies a beloved building in downtown Barrington, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The BG Theater is one of the anchors of a strip mall.
O’Connor also based his fund-raiser on the website KickStarter.org, while Benjamin is taking donations at her front counter.
“It was amazing,” O’Connor said of the $100,000 Catlow campaign. “The people were going ‘What else do you need?’ I think the fact that it was historic helped. It’s really close to a lot of people’s hearts.”
Benjamin said she believes her theater can inspire much the same loyalty, in part through its anachronistic traits. Its auditoriums have a traditional slope instead of stadium seating, which she said attracts elderly moviegoers who would rather avoid stairs.
But she noted that, to raise $300,000, she will need plenty of help, from all around the community.
“I guess it just depends on how much people care if they have a neighborhood theater,” Benjamin said.