Ten minutes shy of 2013, The Mouse roared into the Digital Age. Its fans pooled their money and came up with $75,000 to buy the digital projector the Blue Mouse Theater needs to stay in business.
Nearly 90, the Blue Mouse is a Proctor District treasure, an old-fashioned neighborhood movie house – the kind with fresh popcorn, second-run movies, low ticket prices and a line where patrons are always bumping into someone they know. Item #2 in that list hit a crisis last fall in a letter from 20th Century Fox. The distributor announced it would no longer provide films in 35 mm to fit the projectors used at the Blue Mouse and hundreds of other small, independent movie houses. Come this fall, the letter said, all Fox movies will be digital.
Most of the chain multi-plexes already have switched to digital projectors, at $75,000 each.
Mouse manager Sue Evans knew the change was inevitable but had no idea how she’d come up with that kind of money.
Technically, the Blue Mouse is a for-profit theater owned by a consortium of community supporters who, as far as Evans knows, have never taken a dime on their investment. They bought the movie house to save it in 1994, and have put any income into preserving the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
A world-class scrounger, Evans patrolled the Internet looking for ways to raise $75,000. She hit on Kickstarter. People who need money for plays, records, indie flicks – or theaters, post their projects on the site with their fundraising goal. Donors pledge with their credit cards. If the goal is met, the donations are activated. If not, the money isn’t collected.
Evans worked that big imaginary room.
She posted a history of the theater. She told how it supports the community, and why the community supports it.
She used all her social media to spread the message.
She set her phone to beep with every donation, and e-mailed thank-you notes.
“The e-mails I have gotten from around the world have been incredible,” she said. “People say ‘Congratulations,’ or ‘Hope you save the theater.’ It has all been positive, positive, positive. People have been supportive by sharing our story. Some have said they couldn’t donate. I told them that if they shared our story, they did just as much.”
She set up an array of fabulous thank-you gifts for pledges. Give $10, and you get popcorn and a soda. Give $25, and you get a Blue Mouse T-shirt. Give $5,000, and you get a signed Chihuly glass piece from his Persian series. That last premium is still available. Chances are Evans will throw in a T-shirt, popcorn and soda if you pop for it.
Thanks to their $2,000 pledge, a couple from Roy will be going to the Blue Mouse as often as they like, wearing their tees, sipping out of their sports bottles and enjoying their print of Sarah Clementson’s watercolor of the theater.
“I called them back to thank them. I was pretty emotional,” Evans said. “She put her husband on the phone. He was young when he started out working in theaters. Then he joined the Air Force. He came back to Tacoma and worked at General Cinemas on 38th Street.”
At the time, that was the home of Tacoma’s weekly “Rocky Horror Picture Show” romp.
“When Lincoln Plaza closed we took Rocky from them,” Evans said. “I told him, ‘Your print of Rocky came to me.’”
On Dec. 31, you could barely carry on a conversation with Evans, for all the noise her phone was making.
“I was sitting on pins and needles that whole day. I knew we were getting close. My phone dinged every time we got a donation,” she said. “It dinged at 10 (minutes) to 12 (o’clock), and that’s when it came. We got a $1,000 donation that pushed us over. It was John and Sondra Mangan. They put us over.”
Rejoicing ensued, then the thank-you note, and a reply.
Sondra Mangan wrote that she and John met on a blind date in 1981. Then he asked her to a love story double-feature: “Lady and the Tramp” and “Casablanca” at the Blue Mouse.
“Happy to be the one to take it over the top last night,” Sondra wrote. “Happy New Year.”
“I said ‘Thank you, Sondra. Now you and John can have many dates at the Blue Mouse and get hugs from me,’” Evans replied.
Hugs, she said, have been a big part of the campaign. Donate and get one. Wish it well, and get one.
There is still time to get yours.
“I’m still going, dear,” Evans said. “I’m not stopping. We still have days left. We’re going to keep raising money to upgrade the acoustics. I got an exact bid for everything we need. It will be $9,100 to complete the room, “ she said. “We’re already $2,000 into that because we have covered the expense of digital. Right now we are sitting at $77,175.”
Evans has another plan to hit the acoustics goal.
“We have an event Friday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. We are doing the 1990 movie “Kindergarten Cop,” and we are having a special guest, actress Pamela Reed. We are going to do a meet-and-greet with her. The tickets are $25 and you also receive a Blue Mouse T-shirt.”
She expects to fill the theater and earn that acoustic work. “And then we’ll be rocking at the Blue Mouse.”
Rocking and roaring.