Please vote to help the historic Crandell Theatre win $25K. We need a new roof!

posted by chathamtimes on September 9, 2010 at 7:40 am

CHATHAM, NY — Please help the Crandell Theatre, an independent nonprofit movie theatre, win $25,000 in a community challenge. The Crandell opened in 1926 and is the largest and oldest movie theatre in Columbia County, NY.

Just click on this link and vote for the Crandell in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “This Place Matters” contest. It doesn’t cost anything and you can opt out of receiving any further emails from them. Please do this now. You must vote before September 15th.


You can only vote once, but please take a few moments to pass this message along to your friends, neighbors, family and co-workers.

The Crandell needs your support and a new roof before winter!

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Comments (2)

quasimodo on September 9, 2010 at 11:27 am

OK. Let me get this straight. The Crandell Theatre operated in the private sector until its owner passed away in January. It was then purchased by some local restauranteurs for $575k and turned over to the non-profit Chatham Film Club.

The Chatham Film Club is in the business of exhibiting first-run, commercial mainstream movies at prices on par with the national average, but does so under the protective umbrella of a 501c3 which
enables them to avoid paying taxes and wages, while passing around the basket every time the roof leaks or the electrical system needs updating.

The Chatham Film Club, I presume consists of a board of directors, none of which have past experience operating a movie theatre.

Independent exhibitors that have dedicated their life to the business and are keeping historic theatres alive at their expense, paying wages and taxes and providing a great benefit to their communities are increasingly squeezed on one side from the multiplex chains, largely subsidized by the film distributors, and on the other side from the non-profits, largely subsidized by the taxpayers, that enjoy the revenues generated from first-run film exhibition but don’t have to “play by the rules”.

I’m not sure that first-run movie theatres have any more business operating in the public sector than restuarants, and I’m not sure that this is what non-profits are supposed to be doing with public monies – particularly at a time when our national deficit sprirals out of control.

But if this is the case, then by what criteria is it determined when a movie theatre can and should be operated in the public sector? The age of the building? The number of screens? Its historic or architectural significance? Its revenue potential? There seems to be no basis, but these are questions that should be addressed as a growing number of theatres are transisitioning into the public sector. The email I regularly receive from my right-wing friends would suggest that people are tired of government handouts and want capitalism to do what it’s designed to do.

I would be interested in the comments of others weighing in on this subject.

CSWalczak on September 9, 2010 at 2:43 pm

You raise a very interesting – and complex – issue here that is related to the ongoing debate that has been going on in the U.S. for many years around the appropriate role of government in supporting private businesses. I think you make a good case for more transparency with regard to the criteria used to determine eligibility for granting not-for-profit status. Some would, myself included, contend that operating as a not-for-profit is not identical with the reception of a government subsidy or handout, arguing that it is more comparable to the tax exemptions granted, say, to senior citizens. I am sure that others would point to a long history of private/public endeavors, and I am sure, to the recent huge government involvement in the operations of the American automakers and big banking institutions. It is that thorny problem of what is best in the public interest. As far as the purpose and mission of this site is concerned, the granting of 501c3 status obviously has resulted in the preservation of some seriously endangered theaters that might otherwise have been converted to purposes that would have either obliterated their architectural characteristics as theaters or resulted in their demolition.

I do think (and perhaps this is a point that is considered when the granting of not-for-profit status is being debated) that there should be a determination as to what degree the loss of revenue from a business operating as not-for-profit is offset by the benefit of increased area foot traffic to businesses like restaurants, etc. I think there is a difference – in terms of the public good – to granting 501c3 status to say a small, historic theater in a small town that probably can’t be upgraded to a multiplex with stadium seating and now-increasingly other amenities and the kind of tax breaks that have been granted to some operators of new multiplexes that have been noted in some of the news reports of new theater developments here on CT. I do think that if a theater can be a run at a profit, it should be. If it can’t – and the determination of this I think can be very difficult – then perhaps something a 501c3 arrangement may be appropriate as long as it does not force a for-profit enterprise into competition with it. I would not, though agree, that theaters should always conform to some kind of absolute sink-or-swim, make a profit or die policy.

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