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Published: Tuesday, 5/20/2003

New group will raise money for the Cla-Zel


BOWLING GREEN - For the first time in its 77-year history, the historic Cla-Zel movie theater on Main Street will be able to seek donations to help support its operations.

A board of trustees was formed recently to oversee the facility, with the board receiving the theater's first-ever designation as a nonprofit group.

“People have been waiting, obviously, for us to get the 501-C3 status,” said Paul Yon, a development consultant for the board. “There are people ready to donate.”

Mr. Yon said the new nonprofit group will begin collecting funds this summer from those people who've already expressed interest in helping the theater to thrive.

In late September, he said the board would have a major fund-raising event during which a larger-scale campaign will be announced.

Eventually, volunteers might be needed to assist with events as well as theater entertainment, he said.

Money raised could help in the long term to pay for a new marquis, screen, or movie projector at the theater. But Mr. Yon said there is a more pressing need for funds to operate the movie house on a daily basis.

Three years ago, a group of local private investors pooled their resources to buy the aging theater from Great Eastern Theatre Co., Toledo. They paid $240,000 for the 450-seat facility and anticipated spending $200,000 to fix it up.

One of those investors was Thomas McLaughlin, Sr., a Bowling Green resident who also will serve as the new theater board's secretary.

Mr. McLaughlin said he didn't want to see the theater closed one day, so he pitched in his financial support for the project. He has a personal fondness for the theater because his father worked there when it opened in 1926.

The board member said he plans to continue assisting the theater because he believes it takes aid from many individuals to keep such a place running.

“It's amazing theaters these days can remain open. It's really not a profit-making venture,” he said. “To keep it open, you need a lot of heads - a lot of thought about what you're going to do.”

Mr. McLaughlin said he and other board members plan to work closely with the theater's manager, Penny Parker-McLaughlin.

Part of their job, he said, will be to help brainstorm about the types of entertainment that might attract viewers to the theater. Current entertainment now includes first-run movies, as well as high school plays and bands. The facility also is available for private group rentals to accommodate such things as speakers and power-point presentations.

Ms. Parker-McLaughlin, who is Mr. McLaughlin's daughter-in-law, said she plans to show more off-beat, independent films. She said a Native American film showing at the theater this week is currently found in only a handful of other theaters across the nation.

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