Campus Theatre/Lewisburg, PA

The Daily Item (Sunbury, Pennsylvania)

November 2, 2010 Tuesday

Another Campus for Bucknell

By Rick Dandes, The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa.

Nov. 02–LEWISBURG — The partnership between Bucknell University and downtown Lewisburg grew even stronger Monday, when the school announced that it plans to buy the Campus Theatre building, relieving the non-profit Campus Theatre Organization Ltd. of its financial responsibilities.

The organization has been losing money operating the venue; in 2009, the Campus Theatre received gifts, grants, contributions and membership fees totaling $91,323. It had $413,430 in liabilities.

But gifts and grants have been on a steady decline since 2007, when donations reached an all-time high, $192,149.

In 2008, donations dipped to $108,154.

Under the new agreement, the Campus Theatre will still maintain authority over its film scheduling, event programming and other cultural events independently of Bucknell.

"We’ll continue to initiate our own programming," said Campus Theatre Executive Director Ellen Flacker-Darer, "and be responsible for day to day operations. But this new relationship means that we’ll be able to keep our doors open for many years to come. I feel good about how the partnership has evolved."

Flacker-Darer also said that since 1941, when the theater opened, "it’s been held together by duct tape. Bucknell, I know, plans to help upgrade the infrastructure."

In a Monday night e-mail to The Daily Item, University spokesman Tom Evelyn explained that "Bucknell has a long-standing commitment to its partnership with the Campus Theatre and to the success of downtown Lewisburg, as its vitality benefits the University and our community. The Campus Theatre is an essential piece of downtown Lewisburg’s cultural identity and economic strength and is one of several reasons why Lewisburg remains a vibrant and attractive small town."

The theater in and of itself is an important cultural resource, he continued, "but it is also an important part of the future of Bucknell’s hometown."

The goal, Evelyn said, is to ensure the continued vitality of this community arts center and expand its capacity to secure state funding invested in the economic growth of small towns.

For several years now, the university has assisted and provided financial support to the Campus Theatre.

In partnership with the Campus Theatre organization, Bucknell is now applying for state economic development grants that would pay for improvements to the theater and would continue to allow the theater to operate itself as an independent nonprofit organization.

The Campus Theatre opened in 1941 as one of 17,000 similar theaters nationwide.

Through the past half-century, most of those theaters have closed or been destroyed, leaving the Campus as one of only 300 single-screen theaters remaining in the country.

The Campus Theatre is also one of the few Art Deco theaters in the United States that features first-run, independent, foreign and classic films. It was designated as a non-profit charitable organization in 2002.

"In 2006, with support from a federal grant, Flacker-Darer said, Bucknell provided a no-interest loan to the Campus Theatre LTD., a local nonprofit organization, to allow the organization to buy the property from its prior owner and continue to run the theater as a nonprofit organization.

The Campus Theatre currently has four part-time employees, and many volunteers, said Flacker-Darer.

Flacker-Darer has several new ideas for the theater, including expanding the programming to include live music concerts.

"We could invite groups that are too small for the Weis Performing Arts Center but too popular to just play one of the local bars," she said.

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