Concrete Theatre faces $50K digital upgrade challenge

By Jason Miller
posted 4.16.12

Reopening Concrete Theatre in February 2010 was challenging enough for owners Val Stafford and Fred West. Now, a film industry shift to digital-only movies has the potential to close the theater for good.

Stafford and West have learned that sometime in 2013, all movie studios will provide movies only in digital format. In other words, Concrete Theatre’s 1943 Christie film projector will be as useless as a one-ton paperweight.

“Digital is a great idea—I’m all for it—but it spells the end for smaller theaters like us,” said Stafford.

That’s because the price tag for a digital projector runs from $50,000 to $80,000, a cost far too great to absorb for most small, one-screen theaters like Concrete Theatre.

Built in 1923, Concrete Theatre will celebrate its 90th birthday in 2013. “That building is constantly needing stuff,” said Stafford. “We need to upgrade the heating system, for example. It’s pretty daunting to think about coming up with another $50,000 to keep it open.”

Save the theater
Stafford and West have begun discussions with community members, looking to identify all their options. A brainstorming session is scheduled for Thur., April 26, at 7 p.m. at the theater. Anyone who wants to keep the theater open is welcome to attend. “We’re looking at fundraisers, grants, loans … there might be something out there,” said Stafford.

West has opened a “Projector Fund” account at Columbia Bank in Concrete. Anyone wishing to donate to that fund can send a check payable to Concrete Theatre (write “projector fund” on the memo line) to:

Concrete Theatre
P.O. Box 954
Concrete, WA 98237

The strategy is not without precedent. In 2009, Concrete Herald publisher Jason Miller held a fundraising campaign to bring back the hometown newspaper. He raised $10,000 in nine months for that private business, which marked its third year back with the April 2012 issue.

Stafford continues to solicit fundraising ideas, which may be e-mailed to or left on the voice mail at 360.941.0403.

For all donation options, click here.

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