BELLOWS FALLS -- A grassroots campaign has succeeded in saving the Classic Film Series at the Bellows Falls Opera House and the program is expected to last at least through the summer.
Municipal Manager Willis D. "Chip" Stearns II announced at a Bellows Falls Village Board of Trustees meeting earlier in the month that the film series was slated to cease at the end of June due a lack of finances, but the $3,500 needed to save it was generated in a day and a half on an online fundraising account started by resident Charlie Hunter. Hunter, a local artist, was given the go-ahead from the by the Rockingham Selectboard on June 3 and soon created an account on Indiegogo.
Though the campaign raised the necessary $3,500 so quickly, Hunter decided to keep the account going to see if more could be generated, and set a new goal of $4,000 and then another of $5,000. As of Friday morning, the account had $4,610 in its name. Hunter said reaching $5,000 would save the program through the end of the year, though he is already impressed with the community's response.
"It's a wonderful example of a bunch of people coming together for whatever reason, but with a common goal of keeping it going. Some businesses stepped in immediately -- the ones that realize (the series) is an economic driver," he told the Reformer. "It brings vitality and it brings economic life into the town.
"And there are a bunch of people that just enjoy classic movies," he added. "I think it can be a real draw. One can only put up with so many explosions (in films). It's nice to have some movies that have other things going on."
The Classic Film Series consists of a vintage movie shown at the opera house at 7 p.m. every Wednesday for $5 per ticket. Each month typically carries a theme and area businesses and organizations often choose to sponsor a certain film. Hunter said the special occasion each Wednesday brings people to the downtown area to also grab a coffee, eat dinner or do some shopping.
Hunter explained he is in Maryland for an outdoor painting event and expects to return Sunday. He said he will make sure the donated money goes from the Indiegogo account to his personal bank account and he will write a check to the town.
Stearns previously told the Reformer the series has been losing money because it costs $250 simply to show certain classic films, before factoring in the cost of required electricity, and current average attendance is typically between 25 and 40 people every Wednesday.
Hunter said Cinema Manager Rick Angers has already booked July for the film series and the theme will be movies picked by the theater's staff.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.