Tupper Lake community saves the State Theater

TUPPER LAKE – First-run movies won’t go dark in this town.

With $60,000 raised locally in August alone, the State Theater now has enough money to convert its two screening rooms from film to digital projection, owner Sally Strasser announced Tuesday.

So when the theater closes Sept. 6, it’s not for good; it’s to install the new digital equipment. Strasser plans to reopen it sometime in October.

Strasser was looking at a bill of $95,000 to update her cinema’s two screens. She couldn’t afford it on her own, so she turned to the community as well as “Go Digital or Go Dark,” a collective campaign to save independent movie houses throughout the North Country.

With a $35,000 grant to get her started, community members and organizations stepped in this summer to rally for the Tupper Lake theater.

The $95,000 goal was met as of Tuesday morning.

Strasser said she was touched by the support for the State.

“I’m so complimented by the vote of confidence. Thank you to all,” she said in a press release issued this morning by the Adirondack North Country Association, which is leading “Go Digital or Go Dark” to help 10 independent North Country movie theaters.

The ball didn’t really get rolling until Aug. 1, when the Tupper Lake Arts Council announced a donation of $10,000 and a $5,000 matching grant. Around the same time, the Gull Pond Association started its own matching challenge, spearheaded by a $5,000 donation by the Sellin family that resulted in a whopping $16,200 raised over just three weeks.

“The State Theater plays a vital role in the culture of our Tupper Lake community,” Gull Pond Association member Rena Sellin said in the release. “We at Gull Pond are glad to do our part to keep its doors open, the movies playing and the popcorn popping.”

Then the Belleville family created a matching gift of $5,000. Each challenge was reached by the time it took to tally and record the checks that were flying in the door, according to ANCA.

Then Stewart’s Shops volunteered to close the gap, making a $5,000 contribution.

As the final numbers are tallied, any additional money raised will go toward related installation costs, such as wiring and heating-cooling system updates.

Eileen Hayes of the Tupper Lake Arts Council said the rally adds to Tupper’s track record of previous successful, grassroots-driven campaigns.

“I am so proud to be a part of this community,” Hayes said in the release. “Time after time, Tupper comes together for worthy endeavors, whether it is saving a movie theater, helping a sick child or easing the traumatic consequences of a fire.”

Susan Lawson, who assisted with the State Theater campaign, agreed.

“I have always thought that beyond the scenic beauty of Tupper Lake’s mountains and lakes, the true magnificence is in the hearts of the people who live here,” Lawson said in the release. “Countless times Tupper Lakers rise to the occasion to do what needs to be done to preserve its people and community. Thank you to everyone who gave and those who would have if they were able.”