A town meeting turns theatrical in Woodstock
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | March 03,2013
WOODSTOCK — There were two silver linings Saturday at the Woodstock Town Hall Theater.
There was the current marquee film, “The Silver Linings Playbook” — and then a second element of newfound promise and good news for the tens of thousands of filmgoers who will visit their local theater in the years ahead.
Inside the same theater, up to 100 residents at town meeting debated passionately over whether to allocate $60,000 for a digital projector system. The article ultimately went to a paper ballot and when the votes were tallied, Town Clerk Jay Morgan announced the new projector was approved 123-31.
Supporters erupted with applause.
For Jeffrey Kahn, chairman of the Woodstock Town Hall Theater, the vote was to ensure that movies will continue to play for years to come. According to Kahn, the movie industry is no longer making 35-mm prints and it’s time for the theater to switch to newer technologies.
Kahn hoped the current equipment would last longer, but it already had sustained enough wear and tear. He said future Hollywood films will only come in digital form, so a digital system was necessary to show movies.
If the article did not pass, Kahn said, the theater would close at the end of the year.
“We’re showing ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ now and there’s a silver lining to this particular article as well,” Kahn said as voters laughed and applauded his comment.
“You will have a superior experience when you come here as a result of this vote. I strongly urge you to vote ‘yes.’”
Kahn’s request had its doubters. Ed English asked Kahn if he knew the town’s film equipment was getting old, why hadn’t the theater been saving money to replace it?
“Sixty thousand dollars is quite a chunk,” English said.
Kahn countered that the theater did not have the money to invest in a new system.
Marian Koetsier argued that the town should not be responsible because the theater is a “Pentangle-operated facility.” The Pentangle Arts Council is a nonprofit group that offers arts and theater programming at the local theater. Koetsier said upgrading film equipment is the cost of doing business and she seconded English’s concerns about fundraising.
“I really have a problem with the town supporting this funding, and I also have an issue with it not having been fundraised by the nonprofit,” Koetsier said to applause.
Kahn said the movie operation would never exist as a private money-making venture and could not exist without Pentangle’s support. Several voters chimed in, saying they had no problems owning the digital projection system.
“So many of you were here when this theater was condemned,” said Peggy Kannenstine. “But we put together a huge program to save it and the whole community pulled together... to make it what it is now. One of the big things that everyone wanted was the movies.”
John Mathews agreed.
“We need this theater or else we lose all the moviegoers to Lebanon, N.H.,” he said to more applause.
All money articles passed at town meeting Saturday. They include a $4,133,755 town budget, a sewer budget of $895,325, $3,000 to the Trustees of Public Funds for services rendered, $1,500 for the annual audit, $18,000 to the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center on Mechanic Street, and $25,000 for Vail Field improvements.
Voters also approved the $3,006,254 Woodstock Elementary School budget. The 2013-14 budget is $92,197 — or 3.16 percent — higher than this year’s budget of $2,914,057.
Woodstock voters will weigh in on ballot articles from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Town Hall Theater. These include a $2 million bond for Windsor County courthouse repairs, and the $11,322,305 proposed budget for Woodstock Union High School.