Three months ago, three childhood friends, raised in Oakhurst and graduates of Yosemite High School, announced they had a plan to "Save the Met," the five-screen theater that abruptly shut its doors Nov. 1.
Matt Sconce, 31, Keith Walker, 32, and James Nelson, 30, came up with a novel and unique plan -- asking the mountain community to become "Met Heroes" by buying an individual, couple or family "membership" to the Met for a flat monthly fee.
At the time, it seemed a very ambitious idea with many obstacles to overcome, not the least being the hefty monthly rent on the building. But the partners confidently moved forward spending 700 hours programming computer software to make the membership program work, communicating with movie studios and dealing with movie projectors that were not only outdated (not being 'digital'), but in need of repair.
Many thought the idea of getting the mandatory 3,000 members within 30 days fell somewhere between slim and no-way -- considering the membership drive was taking place during the Christmas season and during the worst economic downturn in recent history. Putting those distractions aside, the three amigos worked day and night to turn the dream into reality.
After miraculously getting the needed members just hours before the New Year's Eve deadline, they began a 60-day whirl-wind period of remodeling, painting, deep cleaning, repairing and updating concession equipment, signage and plumbing, leading to the March 1 opening.
The Met opened last Friday night and through Monday 1,522 men, women and children watched one of the five films at the revived theater.
Those same theater-goers helped the Met's revenue by purchasing 535 buckets and bags of popcorn, 520 cups of soda and 150 fresh-brewed coffees and shakes.
Although the partners were the catalyst, they didn't do it alone. More than 100 people came forward to volunteer a variety of talents and more than 1,000 hours of labor to help with the re-opening effort.
There was Alan and Judy Zendner and their son Andrew of Advanced Building Maintenance, who donated many hours to "deep clean" the Met. There was Justin Bales and Gary Sconce who worked almost daily renovating the Met. Christy Fullmer-Smith donated her interior decorating expertise and along with Supervisor Tom Wheeler, helped secure building material donations.
Yosemite High student Allison Boyer spent many hours calling Met Heroes with updates on the theater's progress; Amy Nelson worked tirelessly scraping gum off the bottom of about 850 seats in the five theaters; and Thomas Miller organized "Super Hero" promotional events.
Then there was Eddie Gilmore, a retired painter from North Fork, who was one of several painters including Michelle Zendner and Yosemite park ranger Mary Woods, who under the direction of Andrew Zendner, gave their time and talent to help paint the five theatres and three projection rooms with more than 40 gallons of paint donated by Kelly Moore Paints of Oakhurst.
And as much as we applaud the vision, determination and hard work of Sconce, Walker and Nelson, it was the enthusiastic support of community members who rallied behind the membership concept with a healthy dose of faith and threw down their credit cards to be "Met Heroes" that brought the theater back to life.
The Met grand opening, with 16 employees on hand, is tomorrow night (March 8) with a social gathering at 7:30 p.m. with "Oz: The Great and Powerful" being shown at 9 p.m. to the first 250 people to fill Theater 1. Other shows will be shown about the same time. It's a celebration the entire community can be proud of.
For those who said they would "wait and see" if the plan worked -- you can still sign-up to be a "Met Hero" and we suggest you do it today.