Empire still out in the cold for a winter venuePollard remains optimistic
Empire Theatre owner Gary Pollard is still searching for a place to show newly-released movies on weekends during the winter.
After approaching several island venues with no definite possibility, Pollard is now considering using either the gym or the library at the Block Island School. However, the School Committee would need to waive a fee it charges for use of this space.
Pollard is seeking the space because the Empire Theatre, located on Water Street, is not heated. Pollard recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $60,108 to purchase a new portable digital projector.
Pollard is exploring options to partner with an island group such as the recreation department. He is “optimistic,” about the school option.
The Empire Theatre is a for-profit business, which is why Pollard would be required to pay a fee of $40 per hour to the school, according to an email written by School Superintendent Robert Hicks to Pollard on Oct. 21. The School Committee could waive this fee, said Hicks, but Pollard must wait until the November meeting for the board to do so.
In his Oct. 21 email, Hicks references the School Committee’s facility use policy: “Use of school space by a for-profit entity falls under Class 3, which would be $40/hour for the gym and $25/hour for other rooms. There could also be added charges should school personnel need to be on site and paid for their time (such as a custodian to open/close the building and set up/break down the space). Any other arrangements would require a waiver by the School Committee.”
“I can’t afford it if I have to rent the space,” said Pollard, who explained that a three-hour movie would cost $120 to show if the rental fees were imposed. Pollard estimated he would make less than this from ticket sales. He said movie tickets during the winter would cost about $10.
“I’m not doing this to make money,” he said, noting that he wants to show films to benefit island residents in the winter. “But I would be losing money if I have to pay rent. I don’t think I could do it.”
Pollard has also approached several other venues: the Town Council for use of the Town Hall meeting room, the Early Learning Center (ELC) for use of the preschool area, the Harbor Baptist Church, and St. Ann’s by-the-Sea.
All have proved to be inadequate or unavailable for various reasons.
“The Block Island Early Learning Center would be perfect,” said Pollard. “But the board’s executive director said to me that the board met and they didn’t think I would be able to replace the kids’ furniture in the right way. The board felt it would inconvenience the teachers.”
“It’s a designated classroom space,” ELC Executive Director Christine Grele told The Block Island Times. “Everybody felt like it was a really good idea, but it was just too much to ask. It would be great to have movies here [on the island], but I just feel like he has other options.”
Pollard said that Harbor Church and Town Hall would not be good options to show films.
Town Hall would not provide a comfortable viewing space. The Town Council had expressed hesitation at the option at a recent meeting. The Harbor Church poses “technical” challenges for Pollard, including having too small of a space for a screen for his projector. In addition, Pollard added that the Harbor Church often had events planned on weekends when he would want to show his films.
Pollard plans to show movies Friday through Sunday night, and possibly Saturday and Sunday matinees. He said that weekends are the natural times to show films.
Harbor Church Pastor Steve Hollaway told The Block Island Times he is still amenable to finding a schedule that would work. However, Hollaway said the combination of scheduling conflicts and the challenges with screen size doesn’t make the church the best fit.
“Our executive board sent him [Pollard] a letter that said that there were too many scheduling problems with the use of our space,” said Hollaway. He added, “I hope somebody will give a space that works. Personally, I’d like to be able to see movies during the winter.”
Pollard said he did not receive a response from St. Ann’s by-the-Sea.