KINGSTON, Wash. — Kingston is a tiny town north of Seattle that's best known for its ferry landing. But lately, it's famous for something else – The Kingston Firehouse Theater is a literal Mom and Pop and Brother operation.
You’ll often find owner Craig Smith, his brother Kent, and Craig's wife Becky behind the counter. This place took a star turn in the national spotlight a couple of weeks ago, appearing on CBS Sunday Morning:
"You cannot believe how many people saw the show and go you know, I've been driving by that marquee twice a day for 10 years, I've been meaning to drop in there!” said Craig Smith.
Now the house is packed with people who are coming from near and far just to catch a show.
“I just had to come and see it and I want to support it in any way I can because it's just an important thing that he's doing,” said Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith who saw the piece on television, and was inspired to fly in to visit a friend on Bainbridge Island, and make a movie date to check out the theater.
What exactly is Craig Smith doing? He's staying in business.
"Since I opened 10 years ago 1400 plus movie theaters have closed across the county."
That's because of the cost of switching from old film projectors to digital ones - a change required by the studios.
Craig had to borrow one-hundred and forty-six thousand dollars to update The Firehouse. This was on top of debt the family had already incurred to keep the doors open. Also, Craig and his wife both have other jobs: Craig coaches high school soccer, and his wife is a full-time school teacher who also leads exercise classes on the side. They both work hard to keep the place in business.
Even though it’s a labor of love – Craig’s a film buff of course – he’s considered closing the doors and filing for bankruptcy.
But that was before this small-town theater got national attention on TV - and the world stepped in, donating to a crowdfunding campaign launched by Craig’s son that grew to more than 100 thousand dollars the day the story aired. (Today that fund has swelled to more than 200 thousand dollars)
"It seemed to strike a nerve, it's really moving,” said Craig.
Now he's keeping the marquee full, the sodas cold, and the popcorn smothered in real butter.
“This thing's bigger than me, this is a community thing,” he said.
Now the audiences Craig talks to before every show now want to hear his story, and he tells it, informing them that thanks to the donations, they’re paying off all those bills. Then he tells them about the updated filters and lights The Firehouse will receive.
And the owners of the Firehouse say there's one thing we can all do to keep the screens lit at small theaters everywhere.
"Go to the movies, it's a wonderful experience to share with friends there's nothing like it," said Becky Smith.
"Go to a theater, support them, let 'em know that you appreciate them being there, go more than once and always buy popcorn or candy," Craig Smith added.