Tunkhannock’s Dietrich Theater ‘optimistic About Future’
The Dietrich Theater will announce a public fundraising campaign Saturday to help ensure the future of Tunkhannock’s premier cultural organization.
The sustainability campaign seeks to raise $335,000 to satisfy loans, which cost the Dietrich $2,600 a month, said Dietrich Executive Director Erica Rogler. Early donations and grants allowed the Dietrich to retire one of its three loans, said community campaign chairwoman Margie Young.
To celebrate, there will be a mortgage burning at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Young said.
“To date, we’ve raised $277,000, or 83 percent, of our $335,000 goal, and we’re optimistic about the future.” Young said. “We began our campaign by soliciting our board of directors and a few corporate, foundation and individual donors who have responded splendidly.”
The Sordoni Foundation, the Sordoni Family Foundation, the Kenneth and Caroline Taylor Family Foundation, Cabot Oil & Gas, Procter & Gamble, Cargill, Jacobi Capital Management, M&T Bank and Peoples Security Bank & Trust have donated already.
“What a great resource in Tunkhannock,” Bill desRosiers, Cabot’s external affairs coordinator, said of the Dietrich. “So many of our employees and landowners go to Tunkhannock not just for movies but all of the classes and speakers brought in, that it just makes so much sense to be involved with this. ... We’re asking folks to get on board and let the Dietrich know how grateful we are to have such a great cultural resource.”
A successful fundraising campaign also will increase the Dietrich’s cash flow by more than $31,000 a year, Rogler said.
“In fiscal year 2017, we experienced a loss of about $15,000, but if we didn’t have these three monthly payments, we would have been $15,000 positive,” she said.
The Dietrich’s financial distress began when the theater expanded in 2008. It was found that the site of an old gas station was contaminated with two gas tanks, even though the state Department of Environmental Protection gave an environmental clearance of the land before the Dietrich purchased it. The cost of removing the buried gas tanks and remediating the soil created a financial burden of $48,808.
Also during 2008 — during the Great Recession — steel prices rose significantly, causing the cost of the expansion project to jump. Even though $1.7 million was committed to the project, the Dietrich’s board of directors had to develop a financing plan with Peoples Security Bank & Trust to bridge the gap between the project’s cost and what was raised. They reasoned that increased revenue from the expansion would cover the debt service. The USDA guaranteed the loans, and the project was underway.
The expanded Dietrich Theater opened in June 2009 and was an early success. The expansion provided for a greater variety of movies and cultural offerings and the Dietrich’s concession and ticket revenue increased by 59 percent.
Then, in September 2011, a devastating flood hit downtown Tunkhannock. The Dietrich lost its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system in the basement of the original portion of the theater. Much of the Dietrich’s interior had to be replaced or repaired. More than 300 volunteers helped restore the Dietrich, and individuals and businesses donated more than $74,000.
However, the Dietrich still needed a Small Business Administration low-interest loan of $139,800 to help with the cost of a new rooftop HVAC system, some professional labor and loss of income during the four months after the flood.
The Dietrich tightened its belt after the flood. Employees worked without pay and the board renegotiated debt by consolidating its loans at a better interest rate.
With a national slump in movie ticket sales during summer 2017, to stay solvent, the Dietrich had to borrow from its emergency line of credit, which had reached $74,000.
Besides being able to retire its loans and provide some financial security, the fundraising campaign will allow the theater to continue being an entertainment and educational hub for generations, officials said.
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