Sawtell Cinema
Sawtell Cinema

Who’s saving Sawtell Cinema?

SAVING Sawtell Cinema has struck a chord in the Coffs Coast community and further afield.

In the four short weeks since its formal launch, the Save Sawtell Cinema crowdfunding campaign burst through its initial target of $75,000 and just kept rising.

Rather than simply asking for donations, the crowdfunding campaign gives supporters an opportunity to purchase rewards, including your name engraved on a cinema seat or your profile displayed in the foyer.

"This could be one of only four or five Australian social cause crowdfunding campaigns to exceed $100,000," Prashan Paramanathan from Chuffed, the non-profit crowdfunding organisation hosting the campaign, said.

What is it about a small seaside cinema that is attracting this level of support?

The Advocate went looking to find out just who is saving Sawtell Cinema.

"We're not talking about a couple of rich people here," campaign organiser Stephanie Ney said.

"Almost 300 people have dug deep to help out."

Support is coming from individuals, businesses and clubs; from locals and people as far away as Turkey, Japan and France.

Coffs Harbour mayor Cr Denise Knight and husband Chris were quick with their support, purchasing two seats.

Denise has long been a vocal champion of the arts on the Coast, but the cinema has a special emotional pull.

"We used to bring the kids here," Cr Knight said.

"It's just a happy place and when it closed it was like a little bit of happiness just left and we really miss it."

A deep love of cinema, rather than fond memories, prompted Brian Walsh, executive director of television for Foxtel in Sydney to also purchase two seats.

"In my younger days I showed surf movies up and down the coast, so my love of cinema goes back quite a few years," he said.

Former Home and Away star Nick Hardcastle may live in Hollywood, but he hasn't forgotten growing up on the Coffs Coast.

Finding out about the campaign on Facebook, Nick reached out from across the Pacific to help.

Human love and loss have prompted some to purchase rewards.

Juliet Thomas credits her love of movies to her parents, David and Barbara Thomas.

She remembers curling up next to her mum to watch the Hollywood classics when she woke in the night.

Barbara passed away last month and Juliet has bought a seat in her honour.

"It will be a real thrill to sit down to a movie with Barb next to me in spirit," Juliet's father David said.

A host of small businesses up and down the Coast will have their company names engraved on cinema seats for years to come - that's a bit of advertising value with their community support.

But Bevan Collins from Taste Restaurant names another, even more important, reason for his support.

"We recently started our own family and look forward to bringing Zoe to the movies when she's older," he said.

Future generations was also an incentive for Mary Help of Christians Primary School to support the re-opening of the cinema.

"The arts is a vital part of education," principal Elizabeth Watts said.

"A visit to the movies is a fantastic way to learn about the wonders of the world."

Crowdfunding will continue until the end of August.

The campaign now hopes to raise an extra $50,000 to purchase new screens.

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