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After passing their initial July 4 deadline, the Mehrabis have decided to continue the horseshoe fundraiser and have added a Kickstarter campaign

by: JASON CHANEY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Pine Theater co-owner Oniko Mehrabi holds up one of the horseshoes that they will continue to sell as a fundraiser for the purchase of digital movie projectors.


Four months ago, the Pine Theater launched a fundraiser to help pay for two digital movie projectors or face closing its doors.
   At the time, they set a deadline of July 4 to raise the necessary money.
   That deadline has come and gone, but theater owners Ali and Oniko Mehrabi are not pulling the plug on the fundraiser just yet.
   “As long as my agent can keep getting me movies, we will play them,” Oniko Mehrabi said.
   Like other movie theaters nationwide, Pine Theater must convert its film projects to digital because the movie studios are phasing out the production of film. The projectors will cost them $80,000.
   The Walk of Fame Horseshoe Campaign, which sells $400 engraved horseshoes for placement in the sidewalk outside the theater door, had raised $52,000 of that money as of Friday, July 5. The Mehrabis intend to keep selling the horseshoes as long as people are willing to buy them and the theater doors are still open. If the fundraiser fails to raise enough money in time, the Mehrabis will refund each purchase.
   These days, tracking down film prints has become increasingly difficult.
   “In March, they were still producing enough prints on the big ones, the heavy-hitter movies,” Oniko recalls.
   Now, they struggle to find the hit movies on film, and when they do, it can cost them extra to show them.
   “To get ‘Man of Steel,’ we had to pay a guarantee,” she said. “That is something we never had to do before.”
   Typically, when Oniko wants a particular movie, she asks her agent to call such Hollywood studios as Paramount, Sony, Fox, or Warner Brothers.
   “She negotiates what the terms of that film will be — if we are going to end up paying 60 or 70 percent of the ticket price of that film.” Oniko explained. “Do we have to pay an advance fee or not?”
   The guarantee adds another expense and Oniko said the Pine Theater will die fast if they have to continue to pay them to get film movies.
   While their fundraising efforts began with a singly-focused $400 horseshoe-selling campaign, they have since found new ways to generate money. Two months ago, Crestview Cable began taking donations of any amount from their customers. For each $400 they collected, they purchased a horseshoe. So far, they have bought seven.
   In addition, the community children have tried to pitch in. Some little girls held a lemonade stand to raise money while other school students collected pennies.
   “What the little kids in this community have done is absolutely incredible,” Oniko said. “It fills me with a lot of pride, but it also breaks my heart at the same time.”
   While Oniko appreciates the additional support, she clarified that she never intended customers to buy the horseshoes to save Pine Theater.
   “We were hoping to sell 240 horseshoes at $400 apiece to businesses,” she said. “We never expected our customers to afford that.”
   However, the Mehrabis did recently launch a new fundraising effort through Kickstarter that is likely more affordable for customers and provides them with some goods and services in the process.
   Kickstarter is an online organization that helps people fund creative projects such as films, games, music, art, and more. Since 2009, they have helped more than 4 million people raise $685 million.
   ‘We launched the Kickstarter campaign to make up the $30,000 we are short,” Oniko said. “On Kickstarter, there are rewards. It is a pledge, so just like you do for OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting), Jerry’s Kids, or March of Dimes, you pledge a certain amount and once the fundraiser reaches that amount, everybody’s (credit or debit) cards are charged.”
   Rewards range from 11 inches of real movie film for a $5 pledge to a golden horseshoe, one year of big-screen advertising, two free movie passes for one year, and rental of the theater for a $5,000 pledge.
   How long these campaigns last will ultimately depend on how long the Mehrabis can continue to find prints for new movies. So far that day hasn’t come, so they are still trying raise enough money to go digital.
   “We’re not willing to give up yet,” Oniko said.

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