BARRINGTON, Ill. | The owners of The Catlow theater in Barrington weren't sure 60 days would be enough to raise the $100,000 needed to allow the 85-year-old landmark to survive Hollywood's pending transition from distributing movies on film to digital hard drives only.
But as it turned out, not even an entire week was needed.
At 11:40 a.m. July 26, $100,294 was raised through the combined pledges of 780 backers through the website Kickstarter.com.
Tim O'Connor, who co-owns the theater with his fiancée Roberta Rapata, said he'd started the online campaign at exactly 1:07 p.m. the previous Thursday.
"We're just in shock. It's unbelievable," O'Connor said within a minute of reaching the goal. "I can't even think. It's like winning the lottery, which I've never done, so I don't know how to react."
The money was needed to exchange the theater's film projector for a new digital projector. Hollywood studios have vowed not to distribute their movies in any other format than digital after the end of 2013.
Many independent theaters, especially ones committed to keeping their ticket prices low, are not able to handle the costly conversion on their own, O'Connor said.
But with The Catlow's online campaign continuing to run through Sept. 24, he now hopes to raise more than the basic $100,000 in help that was the minimum needed to convert.
O'Connor said there are improvements he's already imagined that could enhance the movie going experience, including upgrading the acoustics, replacing the seats and repainting the facade.
"It'll be great to make that the most comfortable experience you can have when you walk in," O'Connor said.
Barrington Village President Karen Darch said the outpouring of public support for The Catlow was both exciting and encouraging.
"I think it says a tremendous amount about how important The Catlow is as an institution in Barrington," she said.
Darch echoed O'Connor's recent reflections on how much the old theater has meant to past and present residents of the village at important milestones in their own lives.
"Thanks to the generosity of the community, many more memories will be created at The Catlow," Darch said. "It's encouraging to the village as we work on revitalizing the downtown. It shows we're moving in the right direction."
Though the theater might have to be closed for a day when a digital projector is installed later this year, O'Connor said he expects any other improvements to occur gradually during the daytime and not interfere with the nightly performances in the auditorium.