Wanted: 263 people of all ages to fill a theater for a family movie and buy popcorn and soda - cheap.
Next movie is Fly Away Home at 1 p.m. Thursday at Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., Westminster. Tickets $4 for adults and $3 for members, senior citizens and students under 18. Concessions, $2 each. Cash, credit card, checks welcome. 410-848-7272.
Filling the Carroll County Arts Council's big-screen theater whenever a movie is shown is one of Sandy Oxx's goals to help recoup a $17,500 funding loss from the city of Westminster in this fiscal year.
"Empty seats are lost revenue," said Oxx, Arts Council executive director. "You don't need to send me a hundred bucks, you need to come to a movie and buy popcorn. If the community can come through with that, we will be just fine. Instead of 50 seats filled, we need 150."
The Arts Council has to pay half the ticket cost back to the licensee for films that are shown. The more seats filled and the more popcorn and soda sold, the more the Arts Council makes.
The mayor and Common Council have long supported the Arts Council, but this year's budget was too tight to accommodate everyone's request for funding, said Mayor Tom Ferguson.
"It was the same old problem, trying to fit 10,000 pounds of sugar into a 5,000 pound revenue bag," Ferguson said. "There's ever-increasing costs, like everybody else, there was no appetite for a tax increase, and you have to look at your priorities and what you have to fund versus what you'd like to fund. We cut a lot of internal things - we cut everybody's budgets."
Common Council President Roy Chiavacci agreed.
"It was a matter of basic services that needed funding, we had to cut departmental budgets as well, both essential and nonessential," Chiavacci said.
Chiavacci said the city provides the maintenance on the theater building and charges only $1 a year for rent, while Ferguson added that the city pays the Arts Council's electric bill when it goes above $15,000 annually.
Both hope next year's budget will allow the Arts Council funding to be reinstated. To keep up with what's happening at the Arts Council, the Common Council appointed Councilman Greg Pecoraro as a liaison between the two groups, Chiavacci said.
"They are still huge supporters of the Arts Council, so there is no reason why they should look like the bad guys," Oxx said. "What they do for us is almost unprecedented. We couldn't even put a dollar amount on it."
But the cut, representing 4 percent of the Arts Council's $400,000 annual budget, needs to be made up in order to continue the level of programming that Oxx is accustomed to providing.
"We have absolutely no plans to reduce programming or cut programming," Oxx said emphatically. "I won't have it, not under my watch."
The private, nonprofit Arts Council receives about $90,000 a year from the Maryland State Arts Council, and at least $20,000 from the county commissioners.
Members provide an additional $50,000, and last year's Festival of Wreaths brought in $30,000. Other activities, like movies, plays, bus trips, arts camps and classes, and theater rentals, bring in the money for the rest of the budget.
The Arts Council rents the theater to community groups for plays, concerts and other shows, keeping the theater busy about 110 nights a year. All programs are listed on its Web site, www.carr.org/arts.
Oxx and four staff members are the only paid personnel. Like all nonprofits, the Arts Council relies heavily on volunteers, including a board of directors.
Lisa Breslin, board president, said the budget cut was "a unique situation to be put in because the city has been so generous with us," but the community immediately rallied.
"I don't feel the sting we initially felt because the generosity from the community came through so fast and the support, so it's OK," Breslin said.
Lynn Rill, board treasurer, stressed that the city is one of Arts Council's best supporters.
"While we feel that pain of that loss, we feel we have a plan in place that will close the gap through part community, part leadership of the Arts Council and board of directors, and the business community," Rill said.
Oxx, celebrating her 10th year as executive director, believes in the George Bailey complex from the classic movie, It's a Wonderful Life.
"It has a lot of truth," Oxx said. "People who care about this place are kicking in some extra bucks, and asking their friends to join. The parent of a camp child blew up an article and put it in the lobby. We're seeing members upgrade, people offering to help seek funding. I feel if people know we need help, people will kick in."