By Ashley Lodato

As we’re all watching The Barnyard Cinema rise up from a field in Winthrop, the six partners in the venture are scurrying around finalizing plans for the cinema’s opening, which will — if all stays on schedule — be sometime this summer. Partner Genevieve Cole tells me, “It’s been an exercise in compromise and perseverance, but it’s all coming together beautifully.”

Genevieve says that the initial opening waill be a “soft” opening for a week — no advertising or posting, just word-of-mouth circulation. This will give the team time to practice its workflow around selling tickets and concessions, running the projector, and generally operating the cinema.

Meanwhile, experts in many fields are providing training and advice to the team. In early July a projectionist is coming to the cinema to install the sound system and set up the projector, and teach the partners how to use it. A programming consultant is helping them nail down their initial schedule — a challenging feat, given the diversity of interests in a small community. “We need to appeal to multiple demographics,” says Genevieve. She continues, “We’d love to be able to do things like show a new documentary once a week, hold music events, comedy shows, and improv nights.”

The Barnyard Cinema won’t be able to show brand new releases due to onerous distribution restrictions (for example, if you’re showing a new release you can’t show anything else on your screen during the run of the film), but that’s actually fine, says Genevieve, because they want to collaborate with larger theaters such as the ones in Omak, not compete with them. For the big box office hits that the cinema decides to bring to town, they’ll just wait a month or two before showing those films locally.

Genevieve says that whenever she visits a small town she wonders, “How do I get a good read on this place?” The answer, for her, is usually finding the independent bookstore and the local theater. For Genevieve, the movie theater is not just a place to watch movies — after all, we can all do that on our phones and laptops at home — but it’s also a community gathering spot.

The community is rallying behind The Barnyard Cinema project as well. Local builder Jim Salter and his crew “have been phenomenal,” says Genevieve. Also, many residents and visitors have already enrolled in the membership program, which gives members reduced prices on tickets. Bronze, silver and gold level memberships offer different benefits, ranging from $4 off the price of each ticket to free admission, free popcorn, and four passes to the annual Academy Awards party. Visit www.TheBarnyardCinema.com for more information.

Sam Owen followed up with me about the column I wrote on MK Johnson last month. MK, you might remember, has drawn a series of place-inspired coloring books that are getting pretty decent regional distribution.

Sam says that she and her husband, John, purchased a couple of MK’s books to take with them on a recent trip to Africa. MK heard about the trip and the Owens’ intention to give the books away to children in Africa, so she gave them a whole stack more to take. John and Sam gave the books to a grammar school in Victoria Falls, to a child adopted by a lodge owner in Zimbabwe, and to some women they met when they toured their community garden.

Additionally, Sam says, Abby at Trail’s End Bookstore gave them a cap to take. John and Sam found the perfect recipient: a man who was stopped by the side of the road with his cattle cart, which had a flat tire. “I don’t think the hat solved his problem,” Sam says, “but it was a hot day and he appreciated the shade.”

PREVIOUSLY, IN WINTHROP

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