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TOPIC: For-profit v non-profit-level of community support

For-profit v non-profit-level of community support 17 Oct 2012 15:53 #39385

  • rufusjack
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From my research, it seems that a low grossing small town theater (also known as a hobby); will get better community support (ticket sales and donations) if it is a non-profit.

Do you agree or disagree?
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For-profit v non-profit-level of community support 17 Oct 2012 17:29 #39386

  • revrobor
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You may be right Jack. Most non-profits exist because the community got behind the effort to keep it alive or bring it back to life and, generally, people are not as sympathetic to a private business that is failing or goes under.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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For-profit v non-profit-level of community support 21 Oct 2012 03:55 #39403

  • 142857
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It is true that a small town, theater will stand a better opportunity of getting donations if it is non-profit. Grants are available for community oriented projects too, which a small town non-profit theater fits. I manage a small town one screen non-profit community theater, we were fortunate enough to raise $75,000 in 4 1/2 months, mostly through writing grants, but also many local donations, a few good sized,but most $100 or so.

Now that we have a digital projector because of that, the local town -3,000- the community feels more part of it by having contributed, and they have a better picture here rather than drive somewhere else.

We are not exactly making a profit now to speak of, it is a small town and a not so good movie, or the 2nd. week of a first run. can be brutal.

We have a full stage, and would like to have more live music occasionally (now 2 to 3 times a year)and stage productions (now 2 a year), so being a non-profit, community theater has that to try and make work. Not so easy.
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For-profit v non-profit-level of community support 21 Oct 2012 12:05 #39404

  • lionheart
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It sounds like the community where 142857 is located was happy to help support the theater in it's time of need because it's a community non-profit organization, but that doesn't mean they will make the personal choice to patronize the theater by waiting for week two of a run when a new movie comes to town.

Not to say that a non-profit or a small town theater can't be successful. I'm just saying that community support isn't always exactly what you would think. It's not support because they are anxious to see movies in that theater. It is support for the community... for having another community asset they can be proud of... for having something for the young folks to do (not themselves). It doesn't necessarily translate into more ticket sales.

When I looked at what it takes to be a non-profit, I realized that I wouldn't be willing to take the chances of putting all my personal assets into it. Once you form a non-profit, the organization will probably own everything. You will only get a reasonable salary. If it doesn't work out, or you want to move on, you can't sell anything because it's not yours. You gave it to the non-profit. The only way I would be willing to convert to a non-profit is if I was using other people's money and assets, not mine. So, if you are already established and have put a lot of personal assets into your theater, you have a lot to lose. You could even be fired or let go from your theater and left with nothing, since the board will consider the theater theirs and you are just the manager.

If you can get the non-profit organization to buy everything from you and hire you back as manager, then maybe it's okay, but then it's only a job and not really your theater anymore.

Just my 2 cents worth.
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For-profit v non-profit-level of community support 21 Oct 2012 14:57 #39405

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I agree with everything you say Lionheart. The theatre I'm working as manager, Paradise Theatre in rural Mn., was built in 1947 as privately owned, closed in the mid 1980's, opened again in 1998 by a community effort that was from the start a non-profit.

Very different situation than a privately owned theatre considering becoming a non-profit. All the financial considerations you mention are then a factor; it is not really your own any more. So from an individual standpoint of trying to raise money to convert to digital, or expand, etc., attempting to become non-profit sounds good to be able to raise money, but you lose your ownership really.
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