At the 2012 Greensburg Summer Soiree the board of the Twilight Theatre turned dirt on the corner lot across from the Robinett Building on Main Street. Nearly a year later the dirt lot, having sprouted a towering concrete shell of the future theatre, has become a focal point of the Greensburg skyline. While county residents and area movie goers are salivating at the thought of popcorn tubs with butter-flavored syrup, candy beans and the newest moving picture story, the board of directors are locking the doors and hoping to chip away at the sizeable funding gap needed to complete it.
“We’ve completed the first phase of construction, which is the entire exterior of the building, excluding the neon lighting on the marquee,” said Gary Goodman, project coordinator for the Twilight Theatre. “The interior flooring, the underground electrical and plumbing has been completed. The stage has been poured, the second floor and all of the cement has been poured. The doors and windows are installed as well.”
Goodman estimates that the building is 60 percent completed. The remaining completion costs are estimated at between $1.2 million and $1.8 million, with digital equipment, lighting, projectors and decorations possibly coming by donation.
Goodman said that the board is exploring a variety of fundraising options.
They have applied for $250,000 in State of Kansas Community Service Tax Credits, which returns 70 percent of money, in the form of tax breaks, back to donors.
The Kiowa County Senior Center was built in part by the tax credits and the Twilight Theatre received $314,000 in tax credits in 2007 and used those funds to complete the first phase of construction along with the $215,000 insurance payment from the May 4, 2007 tornado.
The program helps fund non-profit organizations across the state and has allocated $4.1 million for the upcoming year.
Whitney Kregar, daughter of Twilight board member Roger Stotts will launch an Indigogo campaign on Aug. 1 to raise the $75,000 needed for new seating.
The crowdfunding platform, popular with filmmakers and artists, provides a way for donors from around the world to fund various projects.
Donations are tiered and donors receive rewards dependent on amount donated. The Twilight Theatre campaign will reward donors with “eternal gratitude” for a $10 donation and higher denominations will reward them with the use of the theatre for a day or an all inclusive Greensburg vacation and a night in the Greentown Silo-Home.
Goodman acknowledged that there are challenges with finding local donors and that the board has been spending a lot of time seeking outside funds.
“It’s hard to ask people for $1.2 million,” he said. “We realize that everyone is tapped out so there is no reason to ask for small donations. We need major donations and [people in Kiowa County] have been “small donated” enough. The majority of the funds we will raise will not be from local donations. One of the finance men I met with said we needed a sugar daddy.”
Page 2 of 2 - The second and third phases of construction, which for financing reasons will need to be consecutive, will take 4-5 months to complete.
“We’ll know by the end of December, if it will happen or not. That’s a good timeline. If we can know when we’ll have the money by December that will be good.”
A number of construction projects have been funded with loans, Goodman said that the board was hesitant to borrow the money since attendance and operating costs were uncertain. He also said that a low interest loan was possible, with some help at the state level, but even with low single-digit interest rates a 22-year loan could nearly double monthly operating costs.
“Since we don’t know what the attendance is going to be it is hard for us to estimate what the income and operating expenses will be,” said Goodman who suggested a $6,000 monthly operating expense. “We can anticipate, but until we are open we just won’t know. We don’t want to open for six months and then have to close the doors. We don’t want to open until we know we can open safely.”
At the earliest, Goodman estimates that theatre could open in summer 2013.
“It’s another cornerstone of the community like the Big Well Museum. The Twilight was the other cornerstone. It should be open for the kids, the residents and people in the surrounding areas. This will be the crown jewel of Greensburg, according to Bill Warren (owner of the Warren chain of theaters) because of the school stage, being the biggest screen between Wichita and Denver, the conferences and everything it will be able to accommodate,” said Goodman. “We hope the residents in Kiowa County and the surrounding counties will recognize that.”
In August The Kiowa County Signal will publish the first part of a five-part monthly series on the history of the Twilight Theatre featuring the rare photos, personal accounts and lost history that has made it part of Kiowa County’s culture heritage.