The stars are coming to Save The Massac and you can be part of the fun.
Save The Massac (STM) will film its Kickstarter video over Labor Day weekend.
“We do need as many people as want to participate in a particular scene of the video — when Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn arrive at the theater, we need people on the sidelines. Anyone that would like to participate can. This is a great opportunity to be in the video,” said STM coordinator Lisa Gower.
That crowd scene filming will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1 in front of the Massac Theatre, located on West Fifth Street in Metropolis. To be involved, contact Gower at 524-7986.
Kickstarter is a fundraising program that launched in April 2009. While the platform of the company is relatively new, its concept and mission are not. Using the internet to bring awareness, Kickstarter provides patrons, referred to as subscribers, the opportunity to provide creators the funding to make their creative projects become reality. In five years, more than 4.6 million people have pledged over $747 million, funding more than 46,000 creative projects that fall in one of 13 categories: Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology and Theater. The project must be something with a clear end, that will eventually be completed and something will be produced as a result.
In return to the subscriber’s support, the creator may receive something from the project. According the to Kickstarter website, writers like Walt Whitman and Mark Twain are pre-web examples of this fundraising concept; their subscribers might have received an early copy or special edition of the work.
Subscribers to the STM project have a variety of choices in return for their financial backing with sponsorships ranging from the $50 Side Kick up to the $10,000 Wall of Fame featuring a variety of tokens of thanks for each level of donation from a T-shirt to a handmade necklace made from an original piece of theater wall to a personalized etched plaque in front of the theater. “We do have a brochure listing the incentives for the different levels of giving,” said Gower, noting that 1500 are ready to be mailed out to Metropolis Community High School alumni.
Funding through Kickstarter is all or nothing. The creator sets a funding goal and deadline. If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project makes its deadline goal, it receives the funding. “If you get a penny less than what you are hoping to raise, you get nothing,” Gower said.
According to Kickstarter, 44 percent of projects have reached their funding goals. Subscribers’ credit card or PayPal accounts are not charged until the project meets its goal.
“We’re nervous at the same time as being excited,” Gower said of the Kickstarter possibilities.
While STM has several options, the members decided their fundraising project would be the stage area.
“Obviously we need plumbing, electrical and all of that — and I’d love to get the money so we can fix it all — but we wanted to capture people’s interest,” Gower said.
Gower has been hearing about Kickstarter for over a year from Superman fans and others. She noted that Maiden Alley in Paducah recently used the outlet to raise funding to purchase digital equipment to show movies and that a Chicago theater using Kickstarter sought $300,000 and raised $1.5 million. Before deciding to use the fundraising venue, a STM committee headed by Denese R. Peebles researched Kickstarter.
“Most of the projects that get on are smaller, but the key to capturing everyone’s interest is the video,” Gower said. “You want your video to be something that will go viral, and I think ours will. I’m hoping we can tap into it from the aspect of the Home of Superman, but also because Oscar Micheaux was born and raised here. If that doesn’t capture people’s interest as far as a theater and filmmaking goes, I don’t know what will.”
Considered a pioneer of independent cinema, Micheaux was born in Metropolis in 1884, one of 13 children of former slaves. When he was 17, he left home for Chicago. He went on to become author, the founder/president of Micheaux Film Corp., formed in 1920, and the first African-American filmmaker to produce a feature-length film, The Homesteader in 1920, and a sound feature-length film, The Exile in 1931. He died in 1951 and is buried in Great Bend, Kansas.
The STM Kickstarter video centers around stars from various eras and genres of Hollywood coming to Metropolis with one goal in mind — to save the Massac Theatre. But when they arrive at the theater, Superman tells them: “We’re not quite ready for you yet.”
“We had goosebumps when we thought about. We thought it was pretty neat,” Gower said, of the concept developed by her sister, Karla Ogle.
Portions of the video will be filmed in front of the Super Museum, the Superman statue, Pizza & Dots and Massac Theatre. Metropolis’ own Superman Josh Boultinghouse is making a special trip for the video appearance. “He’ll be in the (Labor Day) parade, too. He’s very excited; we are, too,” Gower said.
The video is being filmed by Brian Hantak. From Chicago, Hantak is a senior at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale studying television production. Jak Tichenor, senior producer with WSIU Public Broadcasting, of Metropolis, recommended Hantak to STM.
“We’ve met few times with Brian. He took our vision of the video and has absolutely run with it,” Gower said. “We’re excited. We think everybody will be proud of it.”
Kickstarter is one of several ways STM is raising funds to restore the Massac Theatre. STM members have been volunteering at the bingo facility in Reidland — “that has been such a blessing,” Gower said. In addition, a Twisted Trivia event is being planned.
STM formed in May 2009 with the goal of saving the Massac Theatre. Built in the 1930s and open from 1938 to 1978, the building fell into disrepair and was condemned by the City of Metropolis in 2005. For three years, a legal battle ensued between the city and former owners Sun Industries. It was resolved in late 2008.
Since the first day of organizing, STM members have worked diligently raising funds and collecting donations to restore their beloved building. In April 2010, the building was named to Landmarks Illinois’ annual Ten Most Endangered Historic Places list. In February 2011, STM received its 501c3 non-profit status.
In the summer of 2011, STM learned of a potential buyer of the building who had the same goals as the organization. That buyer was Larry Ward, the manager of Noel Neill, the actress known for her portrayal of the Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane in the 1948 Superman serial and then from 1953-58 in the Adventures of Superman television series. Ward began visiting Metropolis in 2002 accompanying Neill during her Superman Celebration appearances.
Ward’s purchase of the building was finalized in January 2012. Over the next year, he had trees and debris cleared from the building and a new roof was placed shortly afterwards. He also purchased 1930s-era theater-style seating. Meanwhile, STM members continued to hold fundraisers. When Ward decided to leave Metropolis, he began working with STM about purchasing the building. A ceremonial passing of the key was held in May 2013.
“He did such a good thing for us,” Gower said of Ward.
As the building’s owners, STM is now fully responsible for carrying out their goal — resurrecting and preserving the building into a facility with three primary functions: rentable office space, public restrooms and a theater featuring a working stage and a movie screen.
Gower hopes the financial backing raised Kickstarter video will get STM closer to that goal. The video should be ready for viewing at kickstarter.com by early December.
Meanwhile, STM meetings are being held at 6 p.m. the last Thursday of each month at the Metro•Chamber office on Market Street.