Marion community center/theater moving closer to reality

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
The two-screen movie theater and community building in Marion, an estimated $983,000 project, has funding from grants and donations coming together in a way that should enable construction to start this year, according to Gene Winkler, spokesman for the Marion Advancement Campaign, which is spearheading the campaign to build it.

The complex will be located on the northeast side of Marion, north of the baseball fields, on five acres donated for MAC’s effort by Vernon Vogel. The land now is in the process of being annexed by the city of Marion.

Winkler said Vogel made the donation because “he wanted to do something to help kids.”

Winkler said the group of local promoters who belong to MAC haven’t actually completed the grant process yet, “but it looks like it’s not going to be a problem.”

He is assured by officials at the state level that the project easily falls within requirements for a $400,000 grant shared at 60 percent from funds from the state and at 40 percent provided locally.

Normally the local share includes such things as donated labor, he said.

The grant would be a KANSTEP program grant administered through the Kansas Department of Commerce.

The assurance of the group in moving ahead can be seen in MAC’s decision to delay the process until another $225,000 is donated locally-$100,000 for the building and $125,000 for movie equipment.

Winkler said the decision to raise the funds was made because it will save about $45,000 in fees that would be paid for a higher level of grant funding to consultants.

Winkler said most of the $125,000 will be raised through “selling theater seats for $500 each.” The donating purchasers will have their names attached to backs of the seats they buy.

The larger theater in the complex will include 120 seats, and the smaller theater will include 80 seats, Winkler said. Seat purchasers can come to Winkler’s Marion business, Gene’s Travel, to see a seat map to specify the location of the seat they buy.

The other $100,000 will come mostly from larger donors, Winkler said. Encouragements such as free movie popcorn and soft drinks for a year may be awarded to donors.

Winkler expects the Marion theaters to fit into a category of theaters that shows movies two weeks after they have been released. It probably will be required that the theaters keep a movie for two weeks, he said.

In that case, he foresees an operation where a movie will open at Marion in the larger theater, then go to the small theater while another new movie is opened in the larger one. There may be matinee offerings.

Movie business veterans tell MAC that the most profitable, most high-demand time for movies is November through the end of February. For that reason, Winkler had once hoped the theater could open this Thanksgiving.

“Thanksgiving was a wish, not a possibility,” he said.

Once the grant application is in, it will take 90 days to receive official approval, he said. Then it would be another 30 days to put the project out for bids.

“I’d like to see if work can begin on it this summer, at least get a shell over it so work can continue inside over the winter,” Winkler said.

Having the theaters in operation a year from this Thanksgiving is a high likelihood, he said.

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