After attempting to sell his two-screen, $350,000 theater through a traditional sale, owner of the Temple Theatre, Mike Hurley, has decided to take a more non-traditional approach to passing along the property to a new owner. Utilizing an essay contest, Hurley plans to give away the 400-seat theater to the person that writes the most convincing 250-word essay on why they should own the theater.
Of course, the owner isn’t doing this for free. To submit an essay, anyone interested will also need to pay a $100 entry fee. Hurley is requiring a minimum of 3,500 entries before he will consider selling the theater. That would cover the original $350,000 purchase price and possibly add to the purchase price if additional entries are collected. If 3,500 entries aren’t collected, Hurley plans on returning all the money to everyone that entered.
To date, Hurley has collected approximately 200 entries, but that number is likely to grow dramatically as the deadline in mid-January approaches. Hurley is also considering extending the deadline to the end of January to attract more people as news of the giveaway spreads around the country. Interestingly, if Hurely does manage to collect more than 3,500 entries, the winner will also receive $25,000 in cash to help get started with their new movie theater.
According to the details of the theater giveaway, the theater has been converted to digital projection after a November 2014 upgrade of the projection system as well as the sound system. Other recent upgrades in the last renovation include new seats and carpeting as well as a new concession stand. Like many small town theaters, Hurley has kept concession prices more reasonable than large chains. The theater allows a “bring your own popcorn” night during the middle of the week and only charges a couple bucks for a small bag of popcorn the rest of the week.
In addition to the theater on the first floor, the second floor offers over 4,000 square feet of office space as well as a 2,000 square foot apartment for either the new owner or an on-site manager. That apartment could also be rented out. There’s also a third floor in the building that’s being used by a local organization under a condominium agreement.
Regarding the selection process, Hurley and some of the staff members will select 20 favorite essays and submit those to a panel of three judges. That panel will judge the essays based on the quality of writing and choose a grand prize winner. Hurley is serious about choosing a winner based on the skill of the writer and has contacted lawyers as well as the Maine State Police to make sure everything was above board.
Whoever does win the theater will gain the relationships with movie distributors and be able to get first-run movies, like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to show in the small theater. Hurley plans on paying all bills prior to passing the theater onto a new owner, but the winner will be responsible for any property taxes. The winner will have a tight hold on the entertainment market in the area though. Unless local residents drive into Canada, the closest theater in the United States is 42 miles away.