Co-op to run Art as of Sept. 7

From August 29, 2012:



The Art Theater Co-op reaches its $100,000 start-up goal
and hires inaugural GM

CHAMPAIGN, IL (August 29, 2012) – In an uncertain time for independent cinemas across the country, the Art Theater Co-op has secured its future by successfully becoming one of the first theaters nationwide to transition from a single owner to a cooperative business of over 1,100 owners, raising start-up funds of over $100,000. The co-op will take over operation of the 99-year-old Art Theater on September 7th and purchase and install a digital projector in coming months. In preparation for the transition, Urbana resident Austin McCann has been hired as the co-op’s first general manager.

The move to a co-op model was started in December 2011 by current operator Sanford Hess and a transitional board of directors in an effort to proactively respond to major changes in the film industry that will require theaters to purchase costly digital projection systems. Since the majority of films will only be released digitally as of 2013, the choice for the Art Theater Co-op, as well as every theater across the country, is to purchase a digital projector (for approximately $80,000) or go out of business. In order to raise the necessary funds, the co-op business model was chosen because of its focus on community, democratic ownership, and entrepreneurial energy, instead of relying on donations or grants.

Thanks to a supportive east central Illinois community of film lovers, the Art Theater will survive. The $100,000 in start-up funds, acquired in only eight months by the joining of over 1,100 owners, will pay for the projector in full as well as a portion of the costs of the business transition. Shares in the Art Theater Co-op continue to be sold at $65 each. The co-op is only purchasing the business itself, not the building that houses the theater. There are very few examples of cooperatively owned cinemas in the United States, but it is expected that more will come about thanks to the success of the Art Co-op so far.

The co-op board of directors is pleased to announce that Austin McCann will begin his role as the co-op’s first general manager on September 7th. Mr. McCann moved to Champaign-Urbana in 2010 and has held positions at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, the Grassroots Radio Conference, the Herbert Brün Society, and the School for Designing a Society. “Austin’s knowledge of and passion for independent film and the cooperative business model fits perfectly into the co-op’s mission and future goals,” said David Thiel, the co-op’s chair.

With the initial financial goals met, a nine-member board voted into office in March of this year, a general manager to take the helm next month, and the upcoming purchase of the digital projector, the Art Theater Co-op is set to ensure that independent cinema remains alive and well in east central Illinois for many years to come.

For further information:


David Thiel
Chair, Board of Directors
Art [dot] Theater [dot] Coop [at] gmail [dot] com
(217) 351-7902


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