When you think of Vashon Theatre, you naturally think of watching a movie. And popcorn. But now, Eileen Wolcott and family, owners of the Theatre, want you to imagine their business in an entirely new way. They’ve developed an unexpected and unique plan they believe will augment their business model and make it more sustainable than only showing movies. After barely scraping by the last few, chaotic years, despite your financial help, several grants and the hard work done by Eileen, her son Jake and husband Gordon, they are now convinced that just showing movies is no longer a viable way for a small, neighborhood theater to survive.
Put another way: unless Vashon Theatre can generate new revenue streams, in addition to their traditional box office receipts, they won’t be able to keep the doors open.
Given the choice of going out of business or re-inventing themselves, the Wolcott’s have chosen to boldly push all their chips into the middle of the table. They are already proceeding with plans to create an open-air venue in their large parking lot, a multi-faceted place that will attract people for a variety of reasons. The most noticeable element will be a very large LED video display. Day or night, movies of all kinds can be shown on this screen rather than the high-cost, first run films that will continue to be shown in the Theatre. Sound levels outside will be kept to a minimum, as amplified sound will only be audible to those using Bluetooth devices.
Seating and tables will occupy a space roughly sixty feet square, half of which will be covered by a fabric roof, which will be supported by a steel structure. Food and beverages will be available from the Theatre, as well as from local purveyors. Island artists, vendors and other providers will occupy several stand-alone kiosks around the space’s perimeter.
Eileen and Jake, who together are the Theatre’s engine, imagine this seasonally-limited space might host movie-goers, people who want a cup of coffee or a beer, families whose kids can move safely around, and groups of teens - all at the same time. Their vision of what will actually go on in the space is not fixed, but they are confident it will evolve into a laid-back, vibrant space where people can go to relax and connect with others, a community gathering space in the spirit of a traditional village green.
This venue, if successful, will get the Theatre out from under the thumb of rapacious movie executives, provide an open-air place where virus-weary people can comfortably meet and most importantly, generate enough income for our beloved old Theatre to stay in business.
That is what this effort is all about: Eileen Wolcott’s steel-clad determination to keep operating Vashon Theatre as it has for three quarters of a century.
For those of you who don’t know her, here are 3 words that together describe Eileen pretty well:
Confident. In some measure, this project is a leap of faith. Eileen doesn’t really have any metrics to assure them of its success. She and Gordon are committed to see it through, simply because they believe in themselves and their judgment.
Relentless. Even during these Covid times, when income slowed to a trickle, Eileen and family relentlessly worked to improve the Theatre, inside and out. New roof, new stucco on the exterior walls, new seats for the auditorium, new tile floor and seats in the auditorium and so on. She never stops.
Persevering. In the last 2 years, Eileen has paid herself this much: $0.00.
Here’s the thing. It is not going to be cheap or easy. Eileen needs to raise $140,000 to get this audacious project off the ground. To be more precise, Vashon, WE need to raise that much money. Otherwise, there is no doubt, Vashon Island will lose its movie theater, and without any doubt, we will never have one in the future.
That is a world I don’t want to live in. Eileen Wolcott actually owns Vashon Theatre, but it is also our theater – it belongs to everyone on Vashon. That’s the way Eileen sees it, too. We’ve got to do whatever is necessary to ensure that this essential, irreplaceable Island business is here long into the future.
We will gladly accept donations of any size, big or small!
• You may contribute in this way by going online to…
…and clicking on the “Fundraising” menu item.
• Or, you can contribute on this GoFundMe account. It is important to note that there is no limit to the amount you can donate here. Big or small, we welcome them all!
• Click the “Donate” or “Donate Now” button.
• On the next page, enter the amount you want to contribute.
• Set the tip amount somewhere between 5% and 30% A smaller number will still support GoFundMe, but get more money to Vashon Theatre.
• Fill in your credit card number and click “Donate Now.”
Thank you Vashon!!
Organizer and beneficiary