With one screen, one schnoodle and one Seed & Spark webpage, Barry Norman, the owner of Brunswick’s Eveningstar Cinema, has been working nonstop to keep his independent movie theater alive.
Using the new independent movie crowd-funding site Seed & Spark, Norman reached his goal of $46,000 in donations from 263 supporters all over the world on Tuesday.
With the industry’s increasing pressures to convert from 35mm to digital film, Norman recently purchased a digital projector, leaving the company with a huge bill and not enough money to pay it off.
“This is a small one-screen theater, so it is a major burden on financial operations having that payment every single month,” said Norman. “It’s like getting a second mortgage where you don’t have any additional income to pay for it.”
Norman said that he was unable to sell any of his old 1960s Italian projectors.
“There are a million of them on the market with all the theaters closing,” he said.
When Norman bought Eveningstar in 2010, the film industry predicted that the switch to digital would come in 2015.
However, at the end of 2012, Norman discovered that December 2013 would be the end of 35mm film.
“Between the distributors and the companies that produce [the 35mm film projectors]—there are only four of them—they kind of colluded to speed up the deadline,” said Norman.
He was left with a choice: “convert or die.”
Changing to a digital projector wasn’t easy, especially considering the space involved.
Norman works in his dual-function projection room and office, with 5’6” ceilings, lots of electronic equipment and books, and a small schnoodle—schnauzer-poodle mix—named Scooter.
“Things had to be ripped apart to get everything up here to fit,” said Norman, motioning to the small space of the projector room. “And then the person from the company actually put it together and set it up, and we also had to have an electrician to completely change the breaker box because of the output that [the digital projector] requires.”
With the financial burden of the digital projector gone, Norman can start imagining the future of Eveningstar and the possibility of expanding with to a space with more screens.
“There is a local developer interested in building a multi-purpose structure in downtown Brunswick, with Eveningstar Cinema as its anchor tenant. With the debt load back in line, we can now pursue that,” he said.
“There’s so many things you can do when you have more screens and more space,” he added. “I couldn’t even look at those plans when I had this deck here, I was on a collision course, so now I’m back. I’ve eliminated debt.”
With more screens, Norman will be able to pursue his dream of planning an annual international film festival; Norman said that he wants the Bowdoin Film Society to be involved in that project.
“I very much want the Bowdoin Film Society to be the people to run it—I definitely want Bowdoin to have an intricate relationship with the theater,” he said.
The Bowdoin Film Society has collaborated with Eveningstar Cinema in the past, and hopes to develop this relationship in the future, according to leaders Isabelle Franks ’14 and Monica Das ’14.
“I absolutely love that there’s always going to be a place for independent cinema,” said Das in an email to the Orient.
Norman said that he is friendly with many Bowdoin film studies professors, and hopes the theater is seen as an extension of campus life.
“I’m a filmmaker and I love talking film with people, and a lot of students have come by and we’ve talked…which you can’t do at just any other theater,” said Norman.
Norman is appreciative of the support from community members.
“They know that I’m in this business not because I’m trying to get rich—because no one can look at this theater and think I’m Ben Gazzara in Roadhouse, raking in the money from the good people of Brunswick and Harpswell around,” said Norman.
“I do it because I really love independent film, the people that would come to a little theater like this to see a film, and the interactions we have.”
The Eveningstar Cinema is located at 149 Maine Street.