MHTF endorses Empire Theatre campaign

Pollard questioned on raising public funds

By Gloria S. Redlich | Jul 30, 2013
This article is reprinted with permission from The Block Island Times.

Empire Theatre owner Gary Pollard has been making the rounds recently to help raise money to purchase a digital projector. He’s begun a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $55,000, saying that without a projector to show movies in the digital format, the theater most likely will go dark. All Hollywood movies will be available only in a digital format by the end of the year.

At a recent meeting with the members of the Mental Health Task Force (MHTF), Pollard was making a pitch not to raise money but to say that if he had a digital projector, which is portable, he would be able to show movies year-round and would provide some necessary entertainment during the winter months.

At the meeting, Pollard was challenged by task force member Michael Brownstein, who asked Pollard why he was trying to raise public funds even though he was a private businessman.

Pollard said that Kickstarter’s guidelines did “not permit commercial enterprises but only creative projects.” He said that the Empire completely met the Kickstarter criteria.

Pollard pointed out that those making individual pledges would not be charged until the full objective had been achieved. He noted that his situation and project were not unique. He cited many such theaters attempting to go digital across the country that had created and mounted many successful campaigns.

In Rhode Island, he gave the example of the historic Jane Pickens Theater in Newport, which is also a privately owned enterprise that raised just over $61,000 for the same purpose last year.

After a lively exchange, the task force voted to approve a resolution to “encourage opportunities like those to be offered by Gary Pollard and the Empire Theatre, because they [provide] islanders with alternative activities.” The Task Force has an interest in fostering activities that offer alternatives to the consumption of alcohol, and Pollard said he felt that several movie nights a week might prove a viable option.

Pollard added that since a digital projector was portable, he would be able to move to a location that was heated, such as the Community Center, school or town hall. He said he would need to work out the details.