Help save a small town theater in Crystal, MI. (Digital Conversion)


As part of my ripoff of James Altucher’s daily practice I make it a goal to come up with 10 ideas every day. Just like James says most of them are shit, but every now and then you get a gem. And without pumping out the trash you will never get the good idea.

Anyway my local small town Theater is in danger of going away because they have been unable to raise enough money to complete a VERY expensive digital conversion. This conversion is required because no film is being produced anymore.

Link to Crystal Box Office Fundraiser details:!.htm

My family and I love this place and would hate to see it close. Its always bad to see a business on a small town main street close, but for me its doubly so when its something unique like an old school theater.

Below is my brain dump of ideas this morning, I ran past the required 10, but most of them are shit, there are a few decent ones and a lot of rabble in the middle. I tried to focus on things that were cheap or free, a lot of them would simply require a lot of phone calls and in person meetings, almost zero budget.

Here is a link to a short documentary that details a very similar sitution the Crystal Box Office is facing: Going Dark: The Final Days of Film Projection

Excuse the typo’s/punctuation, I just try and get them out of my head and on to the page as fast as possible, very little filter.

1. Kickstarter – lots of baggage, but tons of other small theaters are using this successfully.

2. Web page specifically geared towards digital conversion, shareable, SEO friendly/need top match on google for “Crystal Movie Theater”, easy and short URL. Make sure its SUPER easy to donate, Credit Cards/Paypal/bitcoin/donate merchandise.

3. “Viral” video, Dollar Shave Club ripoff etc, tell story but make it zany, funny, memorable, likely to be shared.

4. Contact EVERY media outlet in increasing concentric circles, Radio, TV, Print, include large markets, the local radio station and newspaper would be easy, but badger the bigger outlets, WoodTV, Grand Rapids Press, Lansing State Journal, Detroit Free Press. Nail the story and the sales pitch and don’t give up till they cover it. Sell it as a “Michigan” local story. Even approach national press, USA Today, Wall Street Journal. Couple minutes of phone calls a day and the willingness to get shot down repeatedly, but his could have HUGE rewards.

5. Pure Michigan, badger for coverage.

6. Contact local large theaters for slides before their shows, might be tough sell if they perceive it as competition. But make a sales pitch that Crystal is no way in actual competition with the local Imax Megaplex, and saving a small historic theater is good for all theaters.

7. Direct mail postcard, expensive, but I think could be HIGHLY effective, if I got a postcard at home with SAVE YOUR LOCAL THEATER with a link to a flashy web page and viral video. I would for sure visit the link.

8. Old school flyers, blanket gas stations, grocery stores, anywhere there is a public bulletin board. Libraries/restaurants.

9. Hold “theme” nights with old movies (analog), i.e. Rocky Horror Picture show, or “Western” night or “20’s night” “Zombies Night” encourage costumes and post pictures to social media. Invite media coverage.

10. Approach local high net worth individuals for investment, taking investors/giving up equity, always ends up sucking in the end, but still a valid idea.

11. Seek out regional documentarians, Vimeo etc, try and get them to do a Documentary on the dying local theater being killed off by digital conversions not by lack of customers.

12. Come up with contrarian marketing message and pump, instead of the same old “Save our Theater” try DIGITAL SUCKS!! Gets people to click/check it out. Then explain even though digital sucks (tongue in cheek) we need to make this conversion to survive. #digitalsucks

13. Contact celebrities via social media, especially Michigan based movie actors i.e. Jeff Daniels

14. Contact high school/college journalism media classes, have them do a class project to document the plight of digital conversion.

15. Sappy video, even though I prefer the “Dollar Shave Club” method, could also pull on compassion, though not fond of this whiny approach.

16.Contact Medium to Large corporations for “feel good donations” a 50K grant from GM or Ford or Dow Chemical is a drop in the bucket and they might just do it for the promotion.

17. Contact local/regional business with large social media following/mailing lists and asked to be linked on their social media/emailed to their list.

18.Get a mascot “Dopey the Digital Dog” or even better a cat, people go nuts for cat photo’s on the internet…

19. PROMOTE PROMOTE PROMOTE!! Current webpage has no update in six months. Keep content fresh.

20. Approach and badger local and state politicians for help/promotion. Probably pointless but once and a while you will get something useful out of a politician.

12 thoughts on “Help save a small town theater in Crystal, MI. (Digital Conversion)”

  1. We need to save the theater – it has been a wonderful place to go over the years – I think we could promote it better and bring in more people and if we could get more movies-that will happen. We don’t want Crystal to become a ghost town.

    Good luck to you .

  2. I agree!

    Keep in mind the current dilemma is without a MAJOR investment, they are unable to even get movies. Tough spot to be in for sure, hence the reason to fund raise.

  3. what about appealing to Daniel Henney since he’s a local that has done very well for himself in movies??? Maybe he can help promote??

  4. Its a beautiful old building. Me and my team g.h.o.s.t. Paranormal had the opportunity to spend the night there and investigate strange claims. This old building does have paranormal activity. We would be willing to do our part in setting up some type of a haunted tour of the theater. Maybe charge $5 a person. Small drop in the bucket but its something. We would enjoy helping.

  5. Talk to the people at The Sun Theater in Williamston, Michigan. They just went through this themselves and were able to fund raise and come up with the money to get the digital equipment. They could be a good resource. Great ideas!!! We love the Crystal Theatre and The Sun Theatre!

  6. These are all fantastic ideas, Tim !! I’ve fantasized about doing #9 for decades 🙂 I’m out here in California and will post this to my own social media and brainstorm any folks out here who might be in the industry, have a Michigan connection and might give a rat’s ass. I LOVE this theatre!!

  7. The first movie I remember seeing was at the Crystal Theater with my Mom. THe beginning of a wonderful, enjoyable experience to last a lifetime.

  8. I just thought of another idea, collect “My first time at Crystal Theater” stories and publish them. Look for the oldest possible/historic stories.

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