The community effort is being led by Rick and Gennie Schmidt and Marci Brooks, who are both raising families in Frankfort and wanted to invest in the future of the area.
Its a Benzie County and Frankfort treasure, Rick, Crystal Mountain Resort vice-president said. And with the response we have gotten from the community, a lot of other people feel that way too. To secure up-front capital for immediate needs, the partners offered two percent shares to 14 people who wanted to see the project go. We couldve sold more and we may in the future we actually have a waiting list of people interested.
Because of a delayed closing on the sale, the new owners had just two weeks to open for the summer season, and were amazed when 35 people showed up for an afternoon with mops and brooms to spruce it up before the opening.
Everyone is asking us how can we help? Rick said. People are motivated on this, they want to walk by and see their theater open and thriving. There has been an overwhelming outpouring of community interest and support.
The 650-seat theater needed a new sound system, which was purchased through Central Interconnect from Grand Rapids at a substantial discount. Local contractors Olsen Electric, Smith Plumbing and Turner Brush Network have donated time and lowered costs, and new exit signs were installed with donated labor. One community member has volunteered to refurbish all the old sconce lighting inside.
Since a good theater experience depends on a good seat, and the existing ones are too far gone to refurbish, a BuyA-Seat Campaign has started where patrons can purchase a new seat for $200. The campaign has already received 100 pledges and hasnt been completely publicized yet.
The community helped me see the value in this hidden gem, Marci said. At first, my business mind was thinking it was a bad idea, but my gut said differently, and the community support is what pushed me over.
The next immediate need is a new heating system so the Garden can be kept open year-round, something thats essential to the continued renovation and use of the building.
We have the advantage of being in a beautiful area, but we do get bad weather -- especially in the winter -- and with the gas prices like they are, people arent as eager to travel as far for entertainment. Marci offered. And there is still nothing like seeing a movie on the big screen.
Even with the outpouring of community support, the Garden Theater still has major (and costly) improvements that will need to be made in the near future, including a new roof and movie projector updated to digital standards and quality.
We hope the roof will hold on for a couple more years; we have done patching and will continue to monitor it, Rick said. And we have a vintage projector. about half of the movies are digital right now, so we will have to upgrade. Both are big-ticket items, he admits, but is optimistic about what the theater can offer in the long run.
Although we are not a non-profit, we are not in this to make money. there will be no profits for many years
everything will be turned back in to the project, Rick explained.
Check the Gardens current schedule online at frankfortgardentheater.com or by phone at 231-352-7561.