Windom group hopes to update theater technology
WINDOM -- When the Windom State Theater closed its doors and was put up for sale, a group of concerned citizens rallied together last July to save the landmark structure by forming the non-profit group Windom Theater Inc.
"With a huge volunteer effort and support, we were able to secure the building," Secretary of the Windom Theater Inc. Board Jean Fast said.
The group cleaned the theater top to bottom, got everything running and started showing movies again in August 2012.
Like many small-town movie theater, however, the group knew that eventually it would have to update the 35-millimeter projector to a new digital projector to continue showing new releases.
The organizers of Windom Theater Inc. thought they had at least a year before they would need to complete the required conversion, Fast said, but they were told in January that the deadline was much sooner.
"We found out that by the end of March or April, we won't be able to get 35 millimeter movies anymore," Fast said.
Instead of being deterred by the news, the group kick-started a fund-raising effort with a Soup and Dessert Luncheon on March 3 to raise the $62,000 needed to purchase the new digital equipment.
"The fundraiser we did on (last) Sunday raised $3,400. That's a beginning," Fast said.
Through an affiliation with the Windom United Service drive, the group also received an additional $1,800.
"The county commissioners also found some money in a revolving loan fund for $25,000, which we can use to get a low-interest loan to help in the short term," Fast added.
Windom banks will also support the group's efforts, according to Fast.
"The local banks in the area have gotten behind the idea, and I think we're going to be able to get the money borrowed and then continue doing fund raising," she said.
While $62,000 may seem like a high goal, Fast said that the people of Windom have been enthusiastic about the project.
"It's a big task, but the people are very support of it," Fast said. "They want a theater in Windom."
Nearing the century mark, the State Theater is the "third- or fourth-longest running building as a movie theater" in Minnesota and has stood as a Windom landmark for years.
"It's close to the longest running business in Windom that has stayed at the same location," Fast said.
The art deco architecture of the building makes it unique for the area, and the floor of the lobby is on the Historical Register.
The traditional marquee of the theater was taken down a year ago due to safety concerns.
"But we are working to rebuild the structure because we think (the marquee) is a landmark for the community," Fast said. "There is nothing like the neon lights of a marquee and the smell of popcorn."
In spite of the large task in front of them, not getting the funding to save the theater isn't an option for Fast.
"I don't even like to think about it," she said.
However, if the group's efforts fail, Fast said the building would still be used to create as much of a theater experience as possible.
"In the short term -- we have a DVD player. You could show movies on that. We want to use (the building) for that reason -- to show movies," she said.
Fast added that the theater is also used by private organizations for events; she hopes they will see more of that in the future.
Upcoming fundraisers include an Easter weekend showing of the "Passion Of The Christ," sponsored by a local church, and a presentation given by Adrian Lee, an investigator of the paranormal.
Fast said she hopes both events draw a large crowd and increase awareness about the State Theater, adding "(Lee) thinks we can fill the place."
Direct donations to the Windom State Theater can be sent to Windom Theater, P.O. Box 113, Windom 56101.
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.