Since 2013, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade has helped to revitalize 13 rural community theaters through the Rural Theater Digital Conversion Grant. The grant consists of funds pooled by OEDIT, The Denver Film Society, the Gates Foundation, and the Boettcher Foundation, and it was designed to assist rural movie theaters with the cost of new digital equipment, providing funding up to $20,000.
“Without local small town cinemas, there is a lack in local workforce retention and in enhancing the culture of the community,” said Donald Zuckerman, Colorado Film Commissioner. “These theaters don’t just show new films, but they’re a meeting place for the community. It’s a place for films, special events, fundraising, etc., for various community groups and to enhance local learning opportunities. Furthermore, moviegoing is an affordable activity for families and the elderly, and serve as a safe, secure venue for young people to enjoy.”
To those who may believe they missed their chance to enter the 21st century of film, there’s still time–of the $348,000 in funds approved by the Colorado Economic Development Commission (EDC), $130,000 still remains for any eligible rural theater looking to digitize their film equipment.
“The economic development benefits of this grant come in more ways than one. Not only is there direct job retention, but it’s ensuring that smaller communities have a place to celebrate arts and culture,” said Stephanie Copeland, Executive Director of OEDIT. “Theaters are major factors in rural economies, and we know many business prospects considering relocating to Colorado or expanding in the state look for vibrant downtown areas as an economic indicator for their decisions. Preserving these movie theaters has great spillover effects, and we hope these grants help not only these rural theaters thrive, but the local economy as well.”
Both nonprofit and for-profit theaters can apply for funds. The available funding amount is variable and dependent on total demand, the specific theater, and theater location. Requirements to receive grants include:
• Minimum cash input of $10,000
• Minimum 2-to-1 match for EDC Grant funds
• Minimum three hours SBDC consulting
• Theater will need to demonstrate to the SBDC and the Colorado OEDIT that it will be economically viable after the digital conversion
• Theater must receive a technical review to ensure new equipment will function properly
• Theater must be in a rural area that equals the area outside the boundaries of a city or town of more than 20,000 in population and the urbanized area contiguous and adjacent to such city or town
• Priority will be given to theaters in communities geographically distanced from communities with already converted theaters
Theaters can apply online by visiting http://www.coloradosbdc.org/resources/theater.
Collaborators on the grant include The Denver Film Society; Downtown Colorado, Inc.; Small Business Development Centers (SBDC); 14 rural Business Loan Funds of the Community Development Block Grant program; OEDIT: Creative Industries, Tourism & Film Offices; Gates Foundation, and the Boettcher Foundation.