After a climatic New Years Eve for the Met Cinema, with 3,000 memberships raised just hours before a deadline set by the property's landlords, its estimated Feb. 1 opening date is being pushed back as contracts with movie studios are still being sought.
"The thing taking the longest is getting movies," said Matt Sconce, who spearheaded the "Save the Met" campaign with childhood friends James Nelson and Keith Walker after the Met unexpectedly closed Nov. 1.
"Because we are new to the theater business, we are having to establish new master contracts with all of the studios. This is moving slowly but surely and we can not open until it is complete. Once it is complete, then we can rocket forward to infinity ... and beyond. So for now, we are trying to open in February but not setting a date because it is contingent on the studios and contracts.
"We will send email and regular mail notifications to the members when we get ready to open and, of course, no one is being charged until the doors open."
The trio is currently working to establish new master contracts with Lionsgate, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Relativity, CBS, Disney, Universal, and Warner Bros.
"We plan to play all types of movies at the Met and contracts with these studios will let us have access to all possibilities, from classics to new blockbusters," Sconce said.
Since Jan. 1, the young men have been working diligently with many community volunteers to clean, repair and refurbish the Met for a red carpet opening being planned.
"The theater was very dirty and many pieces of equipment were damaged, or simply not functional," Sconce said. "A lot of repair work has been done. The cleaning and restoration of the theater is moving along quickly and is going to make the Met Cinema a clean, 'mountainy,' great place to be."
While they reached their magic 3,000 membership number -- the minimum needed to pay for all the basics of running the theater -- more revenue is needed to ensure the Met stays open into the future.
Movie studios are switching to producing all their films in digital, as opposed to old-fashioned film, and the Met will need a movie projector upgrade soon -- another massive undertaking.
A new digital projector costs between $55,000 and $60,000, Sconce said -- and the Met has five screens.
"Met memberships allow us to do a slow digital upgrade process. We need an investor, lease or loan to do it all at once," Sconce said. "We are working on those options right now to try and accelerate the digital upgrades."
Sconce said there are high percentages of return for anyone interested in investing, and those interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, "Investment."
If they had 5,000 Met members, a film projector upgrade to digital would be a "no-brainer," Sconce said. Their ultimate goal is 10,000 members.
Although they now have more than 3,000 memberships, Sconce, Walker and Nelson still aren't getting paid. Their drive to save the Met comes, first and foremost, from something bigger -- their love of the place. The Met Cinema is their childhood theater, a place where many fond memories were made with family and friends.
They aren't alone in their sentiments.
"The community has been amazing," said Sconce of all the support they have received to help them reopen the Met. "They send us messages of encouragement, they come and volunteer their time and energy. We could not do this without them. The Met Heroes are alive and well."
To help them with their efforts, donations can also be dropped off at the theater, or mailed to P.O. Box 3560, Oakhurst. They are working through an incorporation they formed two months ago -- "Movie Heroes, Inc."
Community members can sign up for a membership at savethemet.com, where they can also inquire about investing, advertising, setting up business discounts for Met members, or purchasing full or partial memberships for employees, friends or family members.
Sconce, Nelson and Walker have remained busy this month at the Met.
"We are still in the process of restoring the theater," Sconce said. "Counters are being resurfaced, holes patched up, walls and ceilings painted, interior redecorated, seats steam cleaned, gum scraped off, concessions ordered, drink machines installed, carpets cleaned, bathroom 'stink' eliminated, new toilets put in, mirror repairs, cinema equipment restoration and maintenance, live audit system set up for studios, insurance acquiring, Firecode meeting, health inspection preparing, and more."
Their movie theater membership model is a unique approach that veers away from business-as-usual for the theater industry, with people paying a flat monthly rate that enables them to watch every movie that comes to the Met once.
The new model provides a great deal for members, who will get to see more movies for less money, while also ensuring a more steady stream of revenue for the theater, Sconce said.
Individual plans are $19.95 a month and $34.95 for couples. Family plans are also available, and vary in price. Met members can also buy discounted movie tickets for guests. For those coming to the theater without a membership, there's a $10 non-member fee and then they can buy a ticket (ranging from $5.50 matinee to $7), and buy discounted tickets for others.
An individual who pays the $10 non-member fee and buys one ticket can then also watch any movie at the Met that day for free.