Over the month of August, Daniel Collings, the manager of University Mall Theatres, in Fairfax, Virginia, ran a Kickstarter to raise $100,000 for new seats. The old ones were ripped, torn, and some were beat up so bad they had solid holes in the middle. I’m talking big enough to fall through, big. Thankfully for Collings, backers met his goal and raised over $30,000 extra for the “Save Our Butts” campaign, an aptly named double entendre. Collings wanted to give viewers a better movie-going experience, but the cost of replacing 500 seats proved too far out of his budget.
The entire University mall, which is located just across from the Fairfax, Virginia, campus of George Mason University, had been under construction for some time prior to his plea. The theater lost a lot of revenue because of the construction work, which blocked off the sidewalk leading to the theater and took up parking spaces. Collings tried his hand at Kickstarter to even out his losses, offering backers a chance to pledge anywhere from $1 to $10,000 (no one, it is assumed, pledged more than $1,000).
I visited the theater Saturday, February 7, shortly after receiving Kickstarter rewards for a humble $50 pledge. As you can see, things are still very much in progress at the theater; as you walk in, you get the sense the Kickstarter was really needed. To the right are water fountains covered by plastic bags, and to the left is the old entrance, which is inaccessible. Right of the blocked off old entrance you’ll find a welcome mat and the ticket counter.
This theater, if you are not familiar, plays films that are not often left playing at bigger venues, except for the case in which Oscars buzz brings a film back. It’s a nice alternative if you miss something, but single-showing movies really fill up, especially on the weekend. I went to see Interstellar on the advice of my friend Anne, who saw the Oscar-nominated film back around when it made its first run at the bigger venues. I arrived at 7:35 p.m. and had to sit six rows back from the front at that time. By the 8:00 p.m. showing, the entire 16-row theater was full. Keep that in mind whether you go on Tuesday, for $2 movies, or on the weekend (more on prices later).
So how were the seats? They were actually quite comfortable, and nice. There’s still popcorn and sticky stuff on the floor, and the bannister leading down to the theater was broken, but it’s progress. Maybe Collings will run a “Save Our Balance” Kickstarter in the summer?
When a movie starts up, all 2,705 backers are proudly displayed. I believe they’ll do that for the rest of this calendar year. It’s nearly impossible, however, to make out your own name, even on the big screen (don’t even try with the linked video). When you look, consider the list is alphabetized. You’ll also notice a nice neon EXIT sign, in the enhanced, blurry picture that follows.