Karl Huber and Mary Jo Tiampo-Oskarsson stretch out on a blanket chatting while waiting for "Caddyshack" to start at opening night of a previous
Karl Huber and Mary Jo Tiampo-Oskarsson stretch out on a blanket chatting while waiting for "Caddyshack" to start at opening night of a previous season at the Boulder Outdoor Cinema. ( Mark Leffingwell )

CORRECTION: This story originally misidentified Liz Marsh, co-owner of Boulder Outdoor Cinema.

 

Boulder Outdoor Cinema, at risk of losing its regular 14th Street venue, has launched a fundraising campaign to buy the portable screen needed to keep the summertime mainstay afloat.

The current, 18-year-old screen stands adjacent to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. With city planners slated to "reimagine" the space, however, BOC will have to take its show on the road, preferably with an inflatable screen that will cost around $20,000.

"We're going to lose our space. That's inevitable," said Liz Marsh, who co-owns BOC. "But it's not necessarily a bad thing. We have always dreamed of having an inflatable screen. ... The city changing that entire block was kind of the push we needed to make that new screen a reality for us."

The self-proclaimed "second most entertaining thing to do outside," BOC has been a Boulder institution since 1995. Its features range from cult hits such as "Pulp Fiction" to family-friendly fare like "The Muppets." Its summer shows regularly attract crowds in the hundreds.

As a volunteer-run business, however, nearly all of its funds come either from at-the-door donations or out of the owners' pockets. With an inflatable screen, Marsh and co-owner Jeanine Fritz hope to sell private shows and events to sustain BOC for years to come.

"That would be enough money to be able to do things like get a new bulb for our projector, upgrade our speakers and protect ourselves financially from rainouts, without asking the public to help us like this again," said Fritz, who also works in online sales at the Daily Camera.

In addition to the Kickstarter campaign, Marsh and Fritz are using Facebook, Twitter and various advertising platforms to get the word out. BOC is also hosting a party at the upcoming Boulder International Film Festival, complete with live music, video projections and a tattoo artist. Fritz says the party is a chance to reach out to like-minded potential benefactors.

Despite the owners' efforts, BOC is still about $17,000 short of its fundraising goal.

"We have to find a way to energize our base," Fritz said.

Marsh hoped that the camaraderie at BOC's shows, which she says are more participatory and energetic than theater or home viewing experiences, would manifest itself in a successful fundraising campaign. She worries that people may not realize the urgency of the situation.

"I think people think we can use the old (screen)," Marsh said. "But if the space goes, we go. We absolutely need help."

Should BOC perish, its devotees feel the city would be losing much more than an occasional movie-watching venue.

"It's a community institution," said Bob Jencks, a longtime BOC attendee. "It's something for people to do on a Saturday night that's different."

Barry Kardon plays guitar in a band that frequently performs at BOC before the films begin, and he says the atmosphere there is as good as any he's experienced.

"It represents Boulder," he said. "It needs to be here. It's one of many things that give Boulder its personality."

With its self-imposed March 15 fundraising deadline approaching, BOC is urging folks to visit BoulderOutdoorCinema.com and make a donation. As owners of a charitable organization themselves -- BOC contributes to scholarship funds, forest fire recovery efforts and food drives, among other efforts -- Fritz and Marsh are optimistic that good karma will find its way to their Kickstarter page.

"Liz and I have worked to make (BOC) a force for good," Fritz said "We're hoping the community we've entertained and supported for years will help us now."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Alex Burness at 303-473-1361 or burnessa@dailycamera.com.