February 25, 2019; Monterey Herald
In Monterey, California, known for its historic Cannery Row, the Osio Theater, a small independent movie theater that closed in July 2015, then opened again in May 2016 after a successful $76,000 crowdfunding campaign involving 600 donors, is now staging a grand reopening to celebrate its transition to its new state as a nonprofit-owned theater. Among its intentions is to bring a steady stream of independently made and distributed films to the community.
We’ve seen this model work before. In 2012, NPQ’s Ruth McCambridge wrote about the Hollywood Theater in Durmont, Pennsylvania. Opened in 1926, the Durmont cinema had closed, but was reopened as a nonprofit in 2011 with community support. As McCambridge relates, Scott Jackson, president of Friends of Hollywood at the time, told a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter that memberships “help us maintain the facilities of this historic building and keep the reels rolling with independent films, documentaries, foreign language cinema, classics, and family films.” Now, eight years later, the theater continues to operate, albeit now operated by a larger Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, the Theater Historical Society of America.
In Portland, Oregon, another unrelated Hollywood Theater, which also opened in 1926, was converted to nonprofit ownership in 1997. More than two decades later, it is still going strong. In fact, a year-and-a-half ago, the Hollywood Theater purchased the neighboring Movie Madness video store and its extensive 84,000-title collection—a collection that is far more extensive than the 7,000 or so titles available through streaming on Netflix or Amazon’s 20,000 titles. The video store also maintains an extensive collection of Hollywood costumes and memorabilia. Another nonprofit video store is Scarecrow Video in Seattle, which has an even larger set of titles than Movie Madness (about 110,000); it converted to nonprofit ownership after a successful crowdfunding drive in 2014.
The Monterey effort is similar to these predecessors, but with an explicit link to the county’s public education system. As James Herrera in the Monterey Herald explains, the Osio’s mission under its new nonprofit designation is “to make film and digital media education programs available to all Monterey County K-12 students.”
Osio Theater’s Grand Reopening will take place on Saturday, March 9th, and will include a film showing, a show of film-related art, wine, beer, and a membership drive. Membership is available at different levels—the main levels for individual memberships are at $10 a month and $25 a month, and there are memberships for businesses available at the $2,000 and $3,500 levels.
“We’re excited for the grand reopening and to educate the community about our nonprofit’s mission to make film education accessible to students,” says Brandi Lamb, who is interim executive director. “Story telling through film is a vital skill in today’s society, and there are few opportunities for students to access these kinds of programs in our community. We look forward to empowering Monterey County’s next generation to tell their stories.”
This renewed entry onto the Cannery Row scene, however, is a boon to far more than students; it brings a new base for retaining cultural diversity in the arts, and that, in this time of entertainment monopolies, is a welcome development indeed.—Steve Dubb