Welcome to Just Crowdfund the $&*# Movie!, MovieMaker‘s blog where indie moviemaker Jayce Bartok talks about the dos and don’ts of crowdfunding from the trenches of his own crowdfunding campaign. Have a question for Jayce about his movie, Tiny Dancer, or just crowdfunding in general? Ask away at [email protected].

By now, you’ve probably read about how Charlie Kaufman (of Being John Malkovich fame) has raised a mind-numbing $406,237 from 5,770 backers for his stop motion feature, Anomalisa, making it the highest recorded amount raised for a film on Kickstarter. WOW. Who would’ve thought that the humble little crowdfunding-engine-that-could would’ve come so far? Kstarter and Company are truly legit. But is there room for the little filmmakers/film-lovers that have been singing crowdfunding praises for a few years now?

A few days ago Tiffany and I were in LaCrosse, Wisconsin visiting family. LaCrosse is a small midwestern city whose downtown used to be home to two rival movie palaces—The Rivoli and The Hollywood. Like most American cities whose suburban multiplexes are smack in the middle of strip malls now, the downtown movie palaces of old have long ago been abandoned or torn down. But, in a few instances, they’ve been reclaimed. The Rivoli in LaCrosse is a thriving second run movie house/brew pub. But the majestic Hollywood has fared far worse since it stopped showing movies in 2004. A burst pipe flooded the theatre’s interior a few years ago, and the standing water then froze. Suffice it to say, the damage was major.

Over the past few years, Tiff and I have semi-seriously joked about trying to buy The Hollywood, screen our movies, and start a film festival. Well, someone else beat us to it.

Phil Addis, a lawyer in town with no movie connections to speak of, decided it was time to bring The Hollywood back to its art deco glory (check out these amazing pics of its former interior circa 1930). Mr. Addis bought the theater for $15,000, but considering the water damage, he anticipates it will cost $1 Million to refurbish the building. 

Why? you might ask.  Love of movies?  Charles Foster Kane vision/insanity?  It’s tough to say. But Mr. Addis doesn’t expect, apparently, to ever get any of his money back.  In fact, after getting bullied around by powerful theater chains in the area who have warned that he can’t screen any first run films until they’ve passed their big box theater expiration dates, Mr. Addis will be focusing The Hollywood on 2nd run features, a film festival for LaCrosse, and possibly art-house releases that never, EVER come through LaCrosse—in spite of the fact that there are numerous colleges in town.  Hint, hint…

Tiff and I had the privilege of touring The Hollywood this past week. It was truly one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. We walked through the theater in awe of what it once was, and would in a year should be again.  Mr. Addis has already lined up new seats (for bigger bottoms), a giant 3D-capable screen, and an art deco fireplace. But the expenses have only just started to mount.

As we stood around in the upstairs office, Tiff asked Mr. Addis if he thought of launching a Kickstarter campaign for The Hollywood. He responded sadly that his research on Kickstarter had showed that most campaigns to restore old projectors and theaters had fallen short of their goal. He was doubtful that Internet crowdfunding was the way to go for The Hollywood in light of the over-saturation of the platform. Instead, Mr. Addis is relying on selling the new movie seats ($150 a seat), as well as other more traditional methods to raise funds that will compliment his already substantial philanthropy.

All I can say is, I can’t wait to see come see movies here when The Hollywood opens again. Near the end of our visit, we stood in a small greenroom that used to serve as a private sitting space where VIPs could watch movies in luxury. Mr. Addis casually dropped that Rock Hudson and Doris Day had once stood there while visiting LaCrosse promoting one of their films. I have to say, I got chills thinking about all the people, famous or not, that had sat in the dark and watched countless dreams flicker across The Hollywood’s massive screen. Hats off to Mr. Addis. Go buy a t-shirt to help him out.

Jayce Bartok is an actor and moviemaker who runs Vinyl Foote Productions from Brooklyn with his wife Tiffany. Currently, you can see him on USA’s “White Collar” and in the just-released film, Why Stop Now? opposite Melissa Leo, and Price Check both of which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Follow The Independent Collective at twitter.com/ticnyc to stay updated on the Tiny Dancer crowdfunding campaign.