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The marquee at the Guthrie Theater bids farewell to fallen officer Jerry McCarthy last May. The historic theater is a centerpiece in Olde Town Grove City, with owners Eric and Paula Thomas offering the building for community events - and showing the latest flicks. With Hollywood making digital movies, rather than 35 mm films, Mom and Pop single-screen and drive-in theaters are looking at paying up to $80,000 to buy digital projectors to stay in business nationwide. The Guthrie needs about $30,000 more for its Seat Backs for Greenbacks fundraiser to purchase a new projector by the fall, and is asking the community for its help.

Before Hollywood makes 35 mm films a thing of the past, Grove City's Guthrie Theater still needs about $30,000 to purchase a new digital projector to show movies.

"We're shooting for the fall," said Paula Thomas, in making the purchase. She owns the theater with her husband, Eric.

The old-fashioned movie house has already raised about $26,000, with much of it through its Seat Backs for Greenbacks campaign, Thomas added. Any person, business or group who donates $250 gets their name in vinyl on the back of one of the theater's 400 seats.

The fundraiser "got a little lax" over the summer, Thomas said, but the Thomases want to resurrect it again for their push to buy the projector by the fall.

"Hopefully we'll get back on track," she said. "Hopefully we'll raise the money."

After the costs of the vinyl - which is helped by Thomas' brother, who makes them at "a decent rate," she said - the projectors run between $60,000 to $80,000.

Thomas said she isn't sure how many seats have been marked, "But we get two- to- three checks in the mail a week for seat backs," she said.

People have also given lesser donations, like "$50 here and there," she added, towards the projector. Classes from Grove City High School have been raising funds to preserve the single-screen theater.

Other fundraisers included a marketing class at Grove City College. "Students brainstormed ways to raise money for us," Thomas said, which resulted in "a couple thousand dollars."

The students sold T-shirts and posters during the April Guthrie premiere of "Asleep in a Storm," a film by a GCC college student that brought in a full house and lots of fanfare.

The Guthrie allowed the showing for free "and they raised money there for the digital projector, and on campus," Thomas said. Just before summer, her son posted the Seat Backs cause on Indiegogo - a forum for online fundraising similar to Kickstarter - which takes donations of any dollar amount for 30 days.

"We raised a little over $5,000," she added.

For the library's summer reading program, the Guthrie's old digital projector "hit the dust," Thomas said, just before kids were to watch a DVD brought by director Heather Baker.

Saying how the theater needed to be saved, Baker "took out a can and made people donate and got $250," Thomas said. "Now they're getting a vinyl for the library."

Thomas is also in the process of applying for a state grant that is giving matching funds to theaters for digital projectors. "Whether we raise all the money or don't, we'll take a loan to pay for (the projector)," Thomas said. "We've got to do it before the end of the year because of the industry. They're telling us film will be obsolete by the end of the year."

Thomas' heart has been warmed by the generosity of the community. "It's Grove City. The right people are here. They're caring. They don't want the theater to close," she said. "We don't want it to close."

To donate to the Seat Backs for Greenbacks campaign, visit the Guthrie Theater's web site at or visit the theater in Olde Town Grove City along South Broad Street.

Published Aug. 28, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.

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