Opened in 1939, the Roxy Theatre on Cascades Main Street still has the simple charm of that era.
When a kid comes to the snack bar and wants to know what he can get for a quarter, says Boisean Janell Carr, who has a cabin near the town of 982 people, they are never turned away without some candy.
The Roxys stage has hosted high-school plays, local political debates, even funeral services. In fall, Boise State football games take over the screen for a donation.
But recently, the Roxy like small-town theaters nationwide has looked dangerously close to becoming a scrapbook photo.
Owners of older cinemas are grasping at straws. Theyre faced with a two-pronged challenge: declining profits in a struggling economy, and more pressing a movie industry converting from 35-millimeter film to digital files. It costs Hollywood studios less to produce and distribute movies digitally.
The Roxy launched a 30-day Save the Roxy campaign at online fund-raising site Kickstarter.com a couple of weeks ago. It was a last-ditch effort to raise money for upgrades including a digital projector to meet the changing industry standards, which are arriving as soon as February.
The Roxy set a goal of $140,000 in pledges at Kickstarter. By Thursday, it had raised less than $4,000.
But that evening, a miracle came. Owners Jason and Trisha Speer found a business partner who will ensure the upgrades will occur.
The Roxy will live on.
We were hoping with Kickstarter that one angel would be out there that would be, Hey, here you go! Jason says. We got it just not through Kickstarter.
Speer, a sergeant with the Valley County Sheriffs Department, and Trisha, who runs a home day care, bought the Roxy in 2006. Business plummeted in 2009 after Tamarack Resort collapsed and the area economy went into a tailspin.
The Speers and their four children, who range in age from 12 to 20, are the Roxys only employees. To make extra money, the family drives to the Treasure Valley at 5 a.m. on weekends to clean vacant apartments. (Except the oldest sibling, who now lives in Boise.)
Around 4 p.m., the Speers travel back to open the Roxy for folks waiting in Cascade.
When times got tough, Jason Speer says, his kids voiced strong concerns around the dinner table about the Roxy.
Its pretty neat, he says. Theyve learned some valuable skills, and its a part of them, too.
In Emmett, the owner of the Frontier Cinema has gotten creative to raise funds, too.
With the help of the community, Roy Dransfield has scraped together $15,000 since last May to prepare for the century-old Frontiers digital conversion. There was a booth at the Emmett Cherry Festival. A benefit concert at Emmett High. A craft sale. Random donations.
Dransfield, a production operator at Micron, has taken out a five-year, $35,000 loan to pay for the rest of the $50,000 needed, he says,
He will continue to seek donations.
Maybe well get it so we only have to pay on it for two or three years instead of five, he says.
The Frontier plans to convert to a digital projector and new sound processor by the end of the month. He has Les Miserables booked to show Jan. 30 in full digital splendor, he adds proudly.
The Roxy Theatres overhaul will include a projector, a complete sound-system upgrade and a desperately needed seat replacement and expansion, Jason Speer says. It should be finished within two or three months.
Other theaters across America might not be so lucky, Dransfield says.
Ive talked to some bookers of movie companies Ive known for years, he says, and theyve told me that theyve heard from other small-town theaters not necessarily here in Idaho but in the surrounding states that are pretty much just going to close their doors once film goes away. Because theyre not in a position to make that upgrade.
Most moviegoers wont see much, if any, difference between digital projection and film, Speer says. Thats what makes the expensive, mandatory change even more frustrating.
Still, there is comfort in familiarity. Small-town movie patrons value that.
Carr has fond memories of seeing the Speer kids in the rear of the Roxy, half-napping under blankets, waiting patiently for the movie to end so they could start sweeping up popcorn.
That sight wont disappear because of the Roxys new investor or modern updates, Jason Speer says.
Nothings gonna change, he says. Were gonna stay the same little theater.
99.1 FM AXES LOCAL NEWS PROGRAMMING
NewsRadio 99.1 FM KINF laid off two full-time employees Thursday as part of a restructuring that includes eliminating local news programming.
The station will keep it news and talk format, program director Rick Worthington said, but it will do so without a local news presence.
Along with the absence of local news updates throughout the day, the Idahos News First program from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays also has been canceled.
The changes are a business decision after the release of fall 2012 Arbitron ratings, Worthington said. The station finished near the bottom of the pack in the Treasure Valley.
- The Treefort Music Fest, which will happen March 21-24 in Downtown Boise, has announced a second wave of performers. They include notable acts Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Animal Collective.
- Country singer Kenny Chesney is headed back to Taco Bell Arena for a show May 30.
- Dutch DJ Tiesto is on pace to be the biggest electronic dance music act to gig in the Treasure Valley. The March 8 show at the Revolution Center moved more than 1,000 tickets during its first six hours on sale Friday, including all available VIP tickets.
TONIGHT IN THE OTHER STUDIO
Well spin new music from Boises Youth Lagoon, Idaho native Josh Ritter and more, including David Bowie and Johnny Marr.