PHOENIXVILLE — The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has put the historic Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville in a position it has never been in before — and it is asking for help from its many fans.
Saying it is facing an “unusually challenging winter: one in which we’re nearly 100% dependent on donations for survival,” the theater launched a GoFundMe campaign at the end of October to raise money to meet its financial obligations through the end of the year.
The nonprofit theater has set a goal of $50,000 for the GoFundMe campaign — one-third of the $150,000 the organization needs to raise by Dec. 31.
“We didn’t get several grants we thought we would get and so we thought it was our next best option,” said Bob Trate, marketing director for the Colonial Theatre. “We wanted to put this out there to the community to let them know that we need funds to keep going to keep the lights on and to continue to give people an escape.” He added the theater is planning to stay open through February 2021.
By Friday afternoon, $20,131 of the $50,000 goal has been pledged. Trate said the theater is hoping to surpass the goal. The theater is tracking its donations by lighting its marquee based on how much is raised. One letter will be lit for every $7,000 raised, according to a post on the theater’s Facebook page. He did not have details about efforts to make up the remaining amount needed.
Like other movie theaters and performing arts locations, the Colonial Theatre was forced to close in March when the coronavirus pandemic led Gov. Tom Wolf to close all but essential businesses.
The theater reopened in time for July 4th weekend, but at reduced capacity as mandated by Pennsylvania’s guidelines. Trate said since reopening, the theater has been relying on donations, limited ticket sales and funds the theater received through the Payroll Protection Program to keep going.
According to the information on the GoFundMe page, attendance is down nearly 90%.
“This massive decline in foot traffic translates to very little revenue from ticket sales, concessions, and screen sponsorships — the very bread and butter (or popcorn and butter) on which we depend,” the site reads.
“One of the advantages for us, we are a nonprofit and we also have the Blob — we have a monster in our theater,” Trate said, adding that the theater sent an email to people who have purchased Blobfest tickets over the past few years to let them know about the GoFundMe effort, and saw a jump in the total pledged.
Two initiatives the nonprofit Colonial offered before the pandemic will be continuing: rentals of the Berry Theatre for private screenings and the Ovations program — which provides free movie tickets to under-resourced individuals and families. The program works in cooperation with area social service providers and is expected to resume.