Goal to raise $300,000 by April
[ By Kendra Walker ]
“Every time I go to a movie, it’s magic, no matter what the movie’s about.”
— Steven Spielberg
It’s been two years since the popcorn was popping and the movie reels were spinning in Crested Butte’s beloved Majestic Theatre. Since closing its doors in light of the pandemic, the Gunnison Valley’s only cinema has been frozen in time, encouraging the community with its “You Stay Classy, Crested Butte,” marquee slogan. However, three former employees of the movie theater have started a grassroots movement to save the Majestic with the goal to reopen and bring the movies back to Crested Butte this summer.
The Majestic Theatre closed on March 13, 2020 due to COVID and because of Colorado state law and restrictions, owners Mark and Ali Drucker were unable to operate for six months and therefore could not make rent payments to the landlord. With heavy hearts they closed the Majestic for good on September 17, 2020.
But former employees Carrie Wallace, Conrad Kaul and Whitney Favor were determined to reopen, and began a campaign to raise funds to save the Majestic Theatre. “We love that job with our whole heart,” says Wallace. “We know the days of running the movie theater and want to bring it back to the community.”
In November 2021, Friends of the Majestic became an official 501(c)3 non-profit. Wallace explains that as a non-profit they can secure grants and government funding, have less reliance on the Hollywood movie market and more opportunity to host community events and films. “We’re not the first movie theater to do this,” she says. “When we first figured out the Majestic was closing, we learned there were probably a dozen movie theaters across the country that all transitioned into non-profits to do the same thing.”
Initially, the goal of Friends of the Majestic was to raise $3.3 million to buy the building. However, the organization has shifted its focus with the hopes of reopening more quickly, and now aims to raise $300,000 by April and reopen this summer.
“The ultimate goal is to preserve this movie theater for future generations,” says Wallace. “We’re trying to raise as much money as we can so we can sign the lease in the spring, apply for the liquor license and go full throttle in the summer.”
Wallace says the fundraising goal includes reopening costs and maintenance. She notes that all of the movie equipment is still in the theater, ready and waiting. “It’s a turnkey business,” she says. “We just have to reapply for a liquor license, and essentially just buy kernels and new bags of soda.”
Wallace notes that the Majestic was a profitable business prior to closing but explains that because a large portion of ticket sales go back to Hollywood, movie theaters survive mostly off of concessions sales. “Movie theaters need their concessions. And liquor was the most profitable part of our business.”
Which is why Friends of the Majestic hopes to reimagine the space, showing new Hollywood movies in two theaters and dedicating its third theater into an event rental space for the community. “Using the other theater as a rental space will actually help the Majestic make more profit,” says Wallace, explaining that in addition to most of the ticket sales going back to Hollywood, the theater also owes distributors money if they have to cancel a showing of a film. “Working there we often found that one of the three movies had low attendance, and we dreamed about using that space better for the community.”
She continues, “Our town really has a hunger for a casual rental or event space. Somewhere to have a birthday party or staff party, karaoke, a place to raise money for other non-profits. This will help us reimagine how we can utilize this space for the Crested Butte community.”
Wallace says they also hope to partner with local businesses to enhance the concessions options and commission local artists to design merchandise and display their work in a mini gallery in the lobby.
So far, Friends of the Majestic has raised about $100,000 of their $300,000 goal. Wallace says that before they even got their non-profit status they had raised $40,000 from over 500 donors. “That’s the definition of grassroots to me. We’ve probably gotten $20 from everyone in town,” she laughs.
Wallace says they have the basic terms of a lease established with the landlord, and he has agreed to start the lease once they’ve reached their fundraising goal.
Ultimately, Wallace hopes Friends of the Majestic can still find a way to purchase the building or work with the town to take over ownership. “Our main goal right now is to get it open, get going and watch movies, but we’re also working some different angles for how to potentially acquire the building.” She notes other small town movie theaters, like in Winter Park, Aspen and Leadville, where the theaters are owned by the towns and leased out.
Friends of the Majestic has several fundraising opportunities coming down the pipeline, including partnering with the Center for the Arts for movie viewings and popcorn at the Crested Butte Film Festival Oscar Viewing Party on March 27. Wallace says she’s also concentrating her efforts on donor meet and greets. “I really just want to meet with people and answer questions, I love when people reach out,” she says.
As for what movies Wallace looks forward to seeing upon the Majestic’s reopening, “There are so many Marvel movies coming out, those movies were made for the big screen,” she says.
To learn more, donate or contact Friends of the Majestic, visit www.savethecbmajestic.com or email FriendsoftheCBMajestic@gmail.com.