March 23, 2019
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Brunswick cinema owner makes film, turns to Internet fundraising in attempt to stay open

Dylan Martin | The Forecaster
Dylan Martin | The Forecaster
Eveningstar Cinema owner Barry Norman holds his dog, Scooter, next to the Brunswick theater's new digital projector, a purchase that upgraded the theater while putting a strain on its finances.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Eveningstar Cinema owner Barry Norman is putting the theater’s fate in the hands of moviegoers with a homemade film and an Internet campaign to raise $50,000.

If the campaign fails, and the finances don’t improve, the theater could close by the end of next year.

The crowd-funding campaign at will kick off on Aug. 17 at 9 p.m. with the premiere of a 77-minute film, “Sticky Wicket.” The film, directed by independent filmmaker Rick Schmidt, will present a twisted “art imitates life” take on the single-screen theater’s situation, Norman said, with a cast featuring him and other local residents.

Norman said the need for extra funding comes from his decision in April to purchase a digital projector. Between equipment, shipping and installation, the total cost was more than $55,000.

He said the purchase was necessary because film distributors require the digital format.

“I saw right away with one screen I had to get one or else I would have to close right away,” Norman said.

This isn’t Norman’s first attempt at crowd-funding to support the business. He previously tried to finance Eveningstar’s conversion to digital with a failed campaign to raise $250,000.

That campaign’s main goal was to move the tiny cinema from Maine Street to a new, three-screen theater near Brunswick Station. But it only raised a little more than $2,300 when the crowd-funding ended in March.

Norman said it’s still his goal to expand Eveningstar, because having multiple screens would give him more impact with film distributors. He said the expansion would also help him financially, because more movie options would attract a larger audience.

“That’s what I’m trying to do, to maintain the long-term health of the cinema,” Norman said.

He said he is talking with a local bank to acquire a building in town and convert it into his dream multiplex, but couldn’t disclose any details because negotiations are still early stages.

Norman said the worst-case scenario would include him continuing to funnel money from his personal savings and retirement fund to keep the theater afloat. The theater owner said he would also hope for a few blockbuster films to bring in major audiences within the next year.

Norman said he has been working 72 hours a week since he bought the theater in 2010. Without steady finances, he said, the business won’t last beyond the end of 2014.

“I don’t want to be where I’m (always) at the precipice,” he said.

Dave Duehring, a Bath resident who attended an evening show at the Eveningstar on Tuesday, said he and his wife have been coming to the theater since it first opened in 1979.

“It would be sad if it left,” he said, adding that he would definitely consider donating to Eveningstar’s fundraising campaign.

Duehring said he likes the theater because it feels personal, with Norman usually at the concession stand to greet moviegoers, and because many of the films shown are ones that usually don’t appear at larger theaters.

“It feels like you’re at home,” he said.

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