Clayton more than just a movie theater around here

The idea of citizens helping fund a private corporation has typically raised eyebrows — just look at the controversy swirling around the bank and auto industry bailouts of the past few years, for instance. Those bailouts focused on the infamous concept of “too big to fail,” and the government felt that these companies going under would simply cripple the economy.

However, there are also times when a privately-owned business becomes so ingrained in the fiber of a community that residents become attached to it, and they want to save the business because they feel it makes their individual lives better. We have seen communities rally to save struggling weekly newspapers in the Midwest, for example, because the people simply didn’t want to lose their paper.

And that appears to be what’s happening with the Clayton Theatre in Dagsboro.

When word first started circulating that the Clayton was in danger of closing its doors, many in the area were heartbroken. Our publisher spoke of going there when she was a kid, and everybody in our office had a story or two to relate on the theater. Facebook and Twitter were filled with people trying to save the Clayton, or to figure out ways the Clayton could save itself.

The reason the theater is endangered is because of a shift in technology. The film industry has been making a move to go all-digital, and the Clayton would need between $80,000 and $100,000 to make the conversion, plus the cost of a new screen they may have to install to work with the new digital projector. For a theater the size of the Clayton, these were huge numbers to even contemplate.

Larger theaters are getting subsidies to make the switch, but as a single-screen theater that does not show enough movies to the masses, the Clayton is ineligible for the subsidies. Thus, they are on their own, but they are enlisting the help of this community in saving the theater.

From Monday, Jan. 14, through Memorial Day, the Clayton will show classic films on Monday nights at 7 p.m., with tickets only costing $4. “Casablanca” will be the first Monday-night screening, and others will follow. That is a cheap and fantastic way to offer your support.

Also, owner Joanne Howe said the theater will be taking donations, either at the theater, or through checks made out to the “Friends of the Clayton.” Yes, this is a privately-owned business, but aren’t we all a little better for having it here?