They are initiating the Save Our Seats (S.O.S.) Campaign for
Mason City’s old-style one-screen theater.
“We had such an amazing response from all over when we launched
fundraising for the projector, we feel that we can’t stop until we
have improved our 78-year-old seats,” John Maxson said. “The
cramped, torn seating has been our number-one detraction, and we
feel we owe it to everyone who’s been so loyal to the Arlee to allow
them to sit in comfort at the movies.”
Except in the peanut gallery down front, seats will be spaced out
for more leg room, eliminating about 100 seats as a result. Fifty
new rocker-back seats with cup-holders will be installed in the
back. They are wider and arms fold up for additional comfort. The
remaining seats will be restored with new cushions and upholstery to
match the newly installed seats.
“We polled our customers, and it was an even split to keep the old
or replace with the modern, so we are trying to compromise,” Maxson
said. “We are keeping the end caps on the rows to retain the art
deco appeal, and think folks will be happy with the final product,
although that will be awhile off.”
The project will be done in two stages. First, 77 old seats in the
middle back will be removed to make way for the 50 new ones. When
that is completed, the longer more work intensive stage of
re-spacing and reupholstering 300 of the old seats will begin.
Each new seat made and shipped costs $150, so with taxes and other
expenses, the first stage should cost about $8,000. Pricing on the
second stage is not finalized, but is expected to run around $23,000
for materials. The Maxsons will do the work themselves, but will
welcome volunteers to assist.
Considering it took John an afternoon to remove 5 seats, this may
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“We have already had people express an interest in helping us
finish what we started, and we will gratefully accept physical
labor or donations toward this project,” Gaye Maxson said. “We
do want people to know the Arlee Theater is registered as a
not-for-profit, but we are not a 501c3, so gifts are not
In keeping with the movie theme, the Arlee has four levels of
giving. Seat Patrons giving less than $150 will receive the
Arlee’s applause and a hearty thank you. A Seat Sponsor who
gives at least $150 will have his or her name or a loved one’s
placed on a memorial plaque. A Producer gives $750 and will
receive three retired seats if desired, and a Director giving
$1500 may have 5 retired seats including the end caps.
“We are excited to say that we already have one Director
supporting this project,” Gaye said.
The Maxson family will be concocting fun activities to help
raise funds as well. The first will be an extreme musical chairs
competition the entire family can enjoy on July 12.
For more information, call the Arlee at 217-482-9999 or
217-691-7229. The Arlee is located at 139 S. Main St., Mason
City, IL 62664.
[Text received; GAYE MAXSON, ARLEE