Updated Wednesday February 25 at 4:15 pm
Mark Snider, founding director of the newly formed Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation (MVTF), received much more than money when he sent a fundraising email to Dr. Richard Kohler last Wednesday night. Dr. Kohler, a surgeon on the staff of the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, and his significant other, Carly Simon, had just been discussing the mounting effort to revitalize the long-moribund Capawock and Strand theaters — the mission of the MVTF. They invited Mr. Snider to dinner that night, and by the end of the evening, Ms. Simon had volunteered to be on the board of directors of the newly formed foundation.
The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter is expected to provide a major boost to the campaign to restore the Strand and Capawock theaters which has now reached the halfway point in its $1 million fundraising campaign.
“It was amazing; she couldn’t have been more gracious,” Mr. Snider told The Times. “She and Richard couldn’t have been more supportive as a team.”
Tuesday, Mr. Snider, co-owner of Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Edgartown, updated The Times on the progress of his negotiations with Benjamin Hall Jr., attorney for Lucky 7 Realty Trust, which owns the theaters. Mr. Snider said he has had several long negotiation sessions with Mr. Hall, and while the dotted line has yet to be signed, there is “nothing insurmountable,” he said.
Mr. Snider expects to sign the lease within the week. The MVTF is negotiating to lease the theaters for 12 years. Mr. Snider declined to reveal financial details to The Times until the deal is finalized.
In the meantime, the daunting task of raising $1 million, the amount he estimates it will take to renovate and update both theaters, continues. Mr. Snider said he’s so confident he will meet his fundraising goal that he’s already soliciting bids for HVAC installation and digital projection equipment.
The Times asked Mr. Snider if the donations to his nonprofit foundation would directly benefit the Hall family, who would continue to own the buildings, should the MVTF fail. “It’s a risk, but it’s a very minimal risk,” he said. “I’m focusing on the win-win. We are going to open, and this is going to work out. It’s remarkable how many people have called to share their opinions and show their support. The Halls have been easy to deal with, and they care that the right things are done with their buildings.”
In a brief conversation Wednesday, Mr. Snider said he expected MVTF to reach the $500,000 mark by the end of the day.
Following her decision to jump on board the theater effort, Ms. Simon met Mr. Snider at the Capawock Theater in Vineyard Haven last Thursday to formally shake on the deal.
Standing in the foyer of the theater that opened in 1913, Ms. Simon told The Times that she has a longtime affinity for the Capawock. “I think I started coming to this theater from the age of 2,” she said. “I saw lots of teddy bear movies here. I saw lots of Disney movies here; I saw E.T. for the first time here. I also saw Heartburn here, which I wrote the soundtrack for, and Working Girl, too.”
Ms. Simon won the 1988 Academy Award for the song “Let the River Run” from Working Girl.
Ms. Simon said her role on the board of the MVTF is as yet undefined, but will evolve over time. “I don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” she said. “I certainly want to be a part of it, and I want to make some music here. Mark and I have been talking about giving it some variety.”
The first order of business is raising the money needed for the project.
Mr. Snider said the money has to be raised in three weeks in order for work to be done in time to make the iconic movie houses operational by Memorial Day. Ms. Simon expressed her full confidence that Mr. Snider will meet the challenge.
“He’s already pulling it off,” she said. “He’s doing an incredible job.”
Mr. Snider was equally buoyant. “By lending her name and what she represents to this, it helps us so much, and I am so very grateful,” Mr. Snider said.
“I’m grateful to you; this is your show,” Ms. Simon replied.
Mr. Snider said that even though the fundraising is off to a good start, the MVTF, a nonprofit organization, needs Islanders to pitch in. “This has to be a community effort,” he said. “If someone can only give one dollar, that’s great. We want Islanders to feel like they own a piece of this.”
Alive and meaningful
Mr. Snider is a man in action. The MVTF articles of organization were filed and registered as a 501(C)(3) nonprofit with the Office of Secretary of State William Francis Galvin on February 17.
The articles of organization state: The purpose of the corporation is to rejuvenate and restore Martha’s Vineyard’s independent movie theaters so that diverse audiences on Martha’s Vineyard are provided with the opportunity to be entertained, informed and engaged through films and live performances, helping to ensure that the arts remain a vibrant part of the local community.”
The articles of organization list Mr. Snider as president and director. Nancy K. Soper of Wayland is listed as treasurer and clerk.
Mr. Snider began informal talks with the Hall family, owners of the long-quiet theaters, during the summer.
“Since I was a little kid, I have loved these movie theaters,” Mr. Snider told The Times when the initial deal was announced Feb. 12. “I have always loved what they represent to the towns, and when they closed down, I was really heartbroken about it. I just waited, hoping things would happen, and they didn’t. I was inspired by an editorial that ran in The Times about a year ago [June 11, “Forge a partnership”], and I decided to do something. I want to see these theaters alive and meaningful and part of the communities and filling the need that I think they do.”
Mr. Snider said both theaters will be outfitted with heating and air conditioning, and with state-of-the-art digital projection equipment. Seating will also be rearranged to provide more legroom for moviegoers.
The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society will oversee the day-to-day operations of the MVTF. Martha’s Vineyard Film Society President Richard Paradise said the new venture will complement, not compete with, the Film Society’s modern, 177-seat movie house located in the Tisbury Marketplace.
Mr. Snider said he envisions the two renovated venues will also be used for lecture series, live performances, and school shows.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Ms. Simon had been named the director for the newly formed foundation. She has agreed to join, the board of directors.