The age of movie theaters showing films projected from reels of cellulose are rapidly coming to a close as the digital age continues to affect our lives. To that end, the city of Boscobel's Fi-nance Committee met last Thursday to discuss the fu-ture of the city-owned Blaine Theater.
"A few years ago we were told that the old reel projector would soon be-come a thing of the past," said Mayor Steve Wetter. "Our theater manager has told us we need to go digi-tal, and it's going to cost us a bit of money. If we're going to do this, we need to do it proper. We're not in-terested in seeing the theater close."
Wetter estimated it will cost approximately $75,000 to purchase a new digital projector, surround sound system, and silver (3D) screen.
"We have been assured that ticket prices will re-main the same," Wetter said. "He has put new seats in, which didn't cost us anything, and he also pays for the heat for both the theater and the Blaine Gym."
"He doesn't pay us much of a lease, maybe $2,800, but he pays for all the heat that goes into the theater and the gym. That's thou-sands of dollars," added City Administrator Arlie Harris. "We look at the theater as a community resource. We certainly don't want it closed."
In addition to equipment inside the theater, the city is also looking to update the outdoor marquee with a new look and LED lighting. That is expected to cost $20,000, with Boscobel Utilities paying half of the cost.
"Our marquee out front has looked pretty bad for a long time," Wetter said. "In addition to the Utility, we would ask for various community groups and individuals to help out."
One community group that has already stepped forward to help fund the project is the Boscobel Community Foundation, which has already made a $10,000 donation toward the project and pledged to match up to $25,000 in in-dividual or group donations.
"We will contribute $10,000 outright and match individual contributions up to $25,000," said Founda-tion President Dan Swenson. "It's an incentive to spread this throughout the community."
That came as good news to committee members who agreed that something needs to be done to a theater that first opened in 1934 with a showing of "Anne of Green Gables."
"It's bad; the bathrooms are bad and need to be re-done," said Milt Cashman.
As part of the plan the theater bathrooms will be remodeled.
"Are they ADA compli-ant?" asked Pete Huigbretse, referring to the federal Americans with Disability Act.
"No, they can't be; they're too small," replied Harris. "They don't have to be ADA compliant if you're just replacing the fixtures."
Tom Pelz of the Commu-nity Foundation asked what the city planned to do with the old projector.
"It will go to the museum," replied Wetter. "It's a part of Boscobel history."
Wetter said the city would like to complete the project as soon as possible. "We'd like to have this done as soon as possible; we don't want to wait. I don't think the public will have any problem support-ing this, as long as it's a one-time, stand-alone loan for a worthy community project."
The finance committee approved a recommendation to the Common Council to borrow $85,000 over 10 years to pay for a new digital projector, sound system, screen, marquee renovation and restroom upgrades.
"If we're going to do it, let's do it right," said Cashman.
The Common Council will consider the recommendation when it meets Monday night at 7:00.