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The Lewis Theatre tries to convert via Kickstarter

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Harkening to its Vaudeville roots, the Lewis serves today as both a movie house and a live performance space for many groups and shows. Photo by Eric Wulfsberg.
Courtesy photo
"The Historic Lewis Theatre must go digital or go dark" is how the Lewisburg Theatre's Kickstarter campaign begins.
Courtesy photo
The Lewis Theatre has been calling to filmgoers for decades as attested to by this 1950 yearbook photo from the Greenbrier College for Women.
LEWISBURG -- It's a sure sign of these digital times that when confronted with one digital headache, the answer may be a different digital remedy.Consider the Lewis Theatre. The movie industry is phasing out 35-mm film, moving to all-digital projection. Unless the Lewis Theatre can raise $60,000 to $70,000 to afford the cost of such a projector system, it will be out of business right on the eve of the old Vaudeville theater's 75th year of existence in 2014.A potential solution? A digital fundraiser via Kickstarter, the crowd-funding platform. The goal is summed up in the campaign "39 K in 39 Days," which takes some explaining, says Larry Levine.Donations to the campaign wind up at 11:04 a.m., Sunday, Nov. 3. This being Kickstarter, none of the committed funds will be awarded unless the entire $39,000 goal is met. (At the time of this interview, the campaign -- which opens with the line "The Historic Lewis Theatre must go digital or go dark" -- had netted about $14,000 in commitments.)The $39,000 will be coupled with money the theater owners have already saved up since they took over the theater six years ago, knowing full well digital film projection was coming."We knew it was coming. Because we knew it was coming we have not taken any money out of the business. All the money the business has generated has been put aside toward this digital conversion," Levine said.The backers have kept a keen eye on the range of support, said Levine. "We just reached our 100th backer. We've had donations ranging from $1 to $1,500."
Depending on the level of support, backers may earn anything from their name in lights on a pre-movie slideshow for one year ($25), to a private film party for up to 100 friends ($1,500). And the sky's the limit for "angel" backers of $5,000 or more, including "naming opportunities and/or private parties."ALL Arts LLC purchased the theater in 2007, formed by Levine, Ann David and Lin Preston when word got around that the establishment might be converted to office space.Levine has also been involved with the Trillium Performing Arts, which at the time was in need of a new home. "The theater was an ideal combination for having an arts company in residence and having a movie business," said Levine.It was a return to the roots of the Lewis Theatre, he said."It was originally opened as a Vaudeville movie house so there was a stage and a movie screen. We've expanded both of those. Now, the theater is open showing movies and having live performances, which connects with its origins as a Vaudeville movie house in 1939."...In order to raise the stakes as they come down to the Kickstarter deadline, there will be a benefit concert at 9 p.m., Nov. 1, just a handful of hours before the campaign concludes. Performers include the Possum Holler Glee Club and Lawless Brown.For more information about the Kickstarter campaign and fundraiser, call 304-661-6128 and 304-667-7576. You can also follow the Lewis on Facebook at Reach Douglas Imbrogno at or 304-348-3017.
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