"This is our way of saying thank you for the overwhelming support
we've received since our fundraising efforts began in September,"
said Arlee owner John Maxson. "It will also be a chance for us to
show off the improved image and sound of the new projector. Recent
Arlee moviegoers have been delighted with our marked improvements."
The Arlee's new projector debuted Dec. 13.
While efforts with online giving through Kickstarter fell far
short of the theater's goal, local donations have been pouring in
since the need was realized, and all but $8,000 of the $42,500
needed to convert the theater to digital has been received.
"We will continue fundraising events to pay off the balance, and
then continue them in order to improve our seating," Maxson said.
"Since the extended Arlee community has shown support, we want to
finish what we started 10 years ago, and that is to give the
community a good place for affordable entertainment. People have
expressed the need for more legroom and more comfortable seats, and
we'll address that."
When the movie industry began rapidly moving toward a digital
format, the Arlee was faced with coming up with money for the
upgrades or letting the screen go dark.
The theater is a nonprofit corporation but does not have
tax-exempt status. That has not stopped people from helping the
Arlee. Gifts have arrived from everywhere from Georgia to
"We've been hearing Arlee stories ever since news broke of our
predicament," said John's wife, Gaye Maxson. "People send us
donations with notes included."
For example, Jean of Springfield said: "If the walls could talk,
they would have lots of fond memories they could tell." She recalled
when the Arlee opened in 1936.
Frank from Springfield wrote: "I have spent too many happy hours
at the Arlee in my life to see it close now. Mason City would be a
ghost town without the theater!"
Jack, a former projectionist in the 1940s who now lives in
Tennessee, sent a donation, as did his sister-in-law Enola to
commemorate his birthday.
[to top of second column]
Suzan from Georgia came to the Arlee as a child when visiting her
cousin, and she also wanted to help.
Mark from East Peoria sent a gift and wrote: "I have fond
memories of movies at the Arlee. Those times were magical as a kid.
My dad and I saw a John Wayne movie in the '60s."
Marcia of Springfield said: "I have great memories of growing up
at the movies at the Arlee -- 14 cents admission at one time."
Betty said: "I so appreciate that there is a small, safe theater
close that I can take my 8-year-old grandson." Another friend said
she hoped that when she has grandchildren, the Arlee will still be
here to take them to movies.
"In addition to financial gifts, individuals have helped in
extraordinary ways," John Maxson said. "Randy Tucker helps us every
weekend, and Lois Rickard has been right there, helping at every
fundraiser. Rhonda and Stanley Francis held their own fish fry and
bake sale for us and rallied a good number of people to help. Our
kids and their spouses have been a driving force and inspiration to
us, and there are many other family members and friends who have
helped immensely with our events, working or donating goods."
"We've received gifts from Monsanto, Darling (DarPro), Farmers
Grain & Coal, the Mason County Arts Council, Easton ETC, ICMS
Running Club and several small-business owners, in addition to many,
many individuals," Gaye said. "Memorial gifts honoring Emily
Penewitt, Ellen Wunderle, Tom Lowers, Tom Auxier, Clyde Cufaude,
Kenny Pryor, June Elmore, and Pat and Louis Maxson have also been
received. We are grateful for each and every gift, and could not
have stayed open if not for them."
Arlee Theater news release]