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Watertown movie theater trying to raise funds to stay open

Published On: Mar 12 2013 09:05:11 PM CDT   Updated On: Mar 12 2013 09:19:23 PM CDT
WATERTOWN, Wis. -

After decades of delighting audiences, a small town movie theater is on the verge of shutting down. But the Towne Cinema in Watertown hopes its online fans can help prevent a final showing.

Where Hollywood blockbusters move Watertown audiences, admission at the Towne Cinema is about as low-budget as you can get.

"We like to have people have a little extra cash after they leave the theater and have a cheaper alternative to taking your family out," said Matthew Sampon, the theater's manager. "A family of four can get tickets and concessions for $20."

At $3 a ticket, it's hard to find a cheaper seat unless you make it to Watertown's senior center matinee.

"My very favorite is 'To Kill A Mockingbird' and 'Gone With The Wind,'" said Sophie Traeger, who remembers Towne Cinema playing classics for a quarter. "They were movies that when you saw them, you went home, changed, you had a good time, and you never forget them."

And as the senior center cineplex hopes for a few donated kernels for their popcorn machine, the Towne Cinema is looking for a little charity as well.

"We're not going to get film anymore, and that happens sometime in June. And what happens is our projectors we're using from the 1950s are going to become obsolete," Sampon said.

With Hollywood forcing theaters to invest in digital projection, the Town Cinema is now turning to online crowd sourcing to raise the needed $70,000.

"It is do or die for us," Sampon said. "If we don't keep up with technology, we will have to close our doors."

"I think you're taking away the last of Rin Tin Tin, Tom Mix and Three Stooges," said Traeger. "You're going to be sitting at home in your living room watching it on a little DVD having about as much fun as somebody that's got 10 years in a penitentiary."

Why not just raise the $3 price of admission? The theater said box office money goes back to the film studios. It's the concessions that help the theater make its money.

To learn about the Towne Cinema's Kickstarter campaign online, go to this website.

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