A few of us have been working on the idea of getting a movie theater opened in Wessington Springs. Over the past few months, we’ve formed a non-profit organization called Springs Cinema for that purpose.
We’ve researched theater operations in similar markets, run a survey to assess local support, scouted for possible locations, met with contractors, and created a business plan.
Based on the survey information we gathered, most people favor locating a theater on Main Street, and we agree this is the best location. Currently, our plans are to purchase the Front Porch building and performing some much-needed renovations.
Our business plan projects that the theater will be able to pay for its own operating expenses if we are able to finance the startup costs and we can recruit enough volunteers to fill all our staff positions.
We base that on comparisons with similar theaters in Armour and Platte. Both of those towns operate volunteer-run theaters, and have been successful at it for a number of years.
We have every reason to believe that the same model can work for Wessington Springs.
We need to recruit a pool of volunteers to actually operate the theater on a day-to-day basis. A small-market movie theater like this one will not make a lot of money, and we will rely on volunteers for all day-to-day operations.
The staff at Armour’s Lorraine theater told us they have a list of about 100 people who help out, and we’ll need to build our own list of people who have the time and energy to keep things going.
The startup costs are not small. We need to purchase the building, replace the furnace, construct a theater room, buy projection equipment, build a projection booth, improve the bathrooms, install a screen, advertise, and take care of a hundred other things which will be required to get this theater up and running.
While there may be some grant money available to help out, the majority of our funding will probably need to be raised here in Wessington Springs.
This is an ambitious plan. The doubters will certainly be able to list plenty of reasons why this might not work. But when I compare our situation to other towns which are currently running succesful theaters, I believe it’s a plan which can work, and which the whole community will benefit from. Wessington Springs residents will have another entertainment option at home, without having to drive to Huron or Mitchell.
Other downtown businesses will benefit from larger numbers of people on Main Street. Visitors will have one more reason to say “this is a town I want to spend more time in”.
I also serve on the Wessington Springs Area Development Corporation, and we often recieve requests for information from businesses which are interested in locating in a small Midwestern town.
A movie theater is great selling point we can add to our proposals as we try to encourage new businesses to locate here and create new jobs.
Before we begin the long process of raising enough funds, we want to make sure there is enough real support in the community to make the effort worthwhile.
Our initital survey we put out a few months ago got some very positive feedback. Now it’s time to get more definite. We need to know how many people are willing to show up on a Friday or Saturday night to take tickets, sell concessions, run a projector, clean up afterwords, do the bookkeeping, and take care of all the other day-to-day jobs which are required.
If it looks like the volunteer pool is large enough, the next step will be to kick up the startup funds and start renovations.
We are running an advertising insert in this issue of the True Dakotan which contains a volunteer signup form. We ask that any interested readers please take the time to find this form, fill it out, and send it in.
If you want to get more involved in this project, please contact one of us on the board. We always need more energy and ideas!
On behalf of the Springs Cinema board: Keri Orstad, Fred Knight, Joyce Krueger, and Dustin Weber