United Palace of Cultural Arts (UPCA)

Where Art Transforms Lives in Washington Heights

Success! $49K raised to Return Film to the Palace

What a ride! What an outpouring of support! Hundreds of contributors from this community, city, and even pockets of the country share our cinematic dreams in Washington Heights.

We set out to use the Indiegogo crowdsourcing website to raise $40K in 40 days to return film to the Palace after 40+ years and we did it, in 39 days. Around 4:30pm on July 9 we received a $1,000 donation that put us over the top. (The donor decided this would be the perfect way to celebrate his birthday, asking his friends to pick their favorite movie scenes then show them back-to-back-to-back at the Palace.)

Then the next day, on the campaign's close, we raised another $1,500 from the denizens of Coogan's Restaurant, who turned out for co-owner Peter Walsh's concert to benefit film at the Palace. (Sorry, I was so tired at that point that I didn't remember to photograph Peter's magnificent performance!)

Then the next day, we received a $5,000 contribution from someone who claimed the dinner and a movie at the Palace perk.

All told, the campaign pulled in $48,916 from about 450 donors, both on and offline.

This building is magical. You can feel it when you walk inside and, evidently, when you see it in print, on TV, or on the Internet. We enjoyed terrific press: The New York Times, The Daily News, NY1, DNAinfo (which broke the story), the Manhattan Times, and the tireless support of our friends at the Uptown Collective.

To everyone who gave – whether it was your money, your time, your talents, or your social media skills – a hearty thank you. This community has demonstrated its aspirations time and time again, defying conventional thinking that nothing happens north of Harlem. I also love the fact that our effort touched the hearts of folks living across the city and country – Virginia, Oregon, New Mexico, and of course from members of my clan scattered across California. Canada even! Hopefully everyone who donated will one day have the opportunity to visit Washington Heights to see what it's like to watch movies in a palace designed for them.

The campaign ended with a close race in voting for the Audience Choice screening. Some last minute ballot box stuffing for "The Wizard of Oz" earned it a tie with "Star Wars" as the movie that contributors most want to see at the Palace. "Casablanca" was a close third followed by a remarkable showing for "Coogan's Bluff," the 1968 Clint Eastwood flick filmed uptown. (The Coogan's Restaurant crowd had a hand in running up that vote count.) See below for completing voting.

How to settle the tie between the top vote getters? Don't know yet. We'll look into the fees for licensing each film and go from there. But wouldn't it be fun to see a mash up of the two films? Darth Vader squaring up against the Wicked Witch of the West. Chewbacca duking it out with flying monkeys. C-3PO trying to out-human the Tin Man. Obi-Wan outwitting the Wizard. (And don't think for a second that you are the first person to suggest that we pick "The Wizard of Oz" just so we can synchronize it with "Dark Side of the Moon.")

There was also a surge of after-the-fact agitating on Twitter for "Rocky Horror Picture Show." We said we'd consider it on condition that staffers from DNAinfo, the initial proponents of this idea, perform the lead roles. (For the record they didn't seem to have a problem with that.)

But this is the beautiful part of a successful campaign – now we not only get to dream about what to do with a 3,400-seat theatre, a 50-foot screen, and a digital projection system: we get to try to make it happen.

We've already taken the Palace out for several test runs. There was the world premiere of "200 Cartas." A live to projection performance with SONOS Chamber Orchestra supplying a soundtrack to the 1920 Harold Lloyd silent film "His Royal Slyness" (see top photo). A viral Internet video retrospective with Juan Bago and O.

The most important thing to do next is to figure out what types of programming are sustainable at the Palace and build the audience to support them. It will be fun figuring out the right mix of classic, independent, Latino, children's and event films to screen.

We are nailing down our film schedule for the rest of the year, which will be announced in the coming weeks. Then we'll spend the next few months planning a series of films for winter and spring 2014.
The best way to get updates about our programming, both for film and everything else UPCA offers, is to sign up for our e-newsletter, which you can do on the left side of this screen.

When the United Palace opened in 1930 the ads billed it as "Times-Square Entertainment Nearer Your Home." Eighty-three years later we are still eager to find quality arts and culture in our front yard. That is one of UPCA's missions, which clearly resonates throughout Northern Manhattan.

One of my favorite lines from the campaign came from Erik Ocshner, SONOS conductor and volunteer extraordinaire. He hopes that very soon the local parks, schools, bodegas, coffee shops, bars, and dog parks begin to echo with the question: "What's playing at the Palace?"

Final vote count for Audience Choice screening
Star Wars (15 votes)
The Wizard of Oz (15 votes)

Casablanca (11 votes)
Coogan's Bluff (8 votes)

Manhattan (4 votes)
Gone With The Wind (2 votes)
The Lady Eve (2 votes)
Lawrence of Arabia (2 votes)
On the Waterfront (2 votes)
Singin' in the Rain (2 votes)

1 vote each
"A landmark NY film"
"A classic Kubrick film"
2001: A Space Odyssey
Amelie
Annie Hall
Duck Soup
E.T.
Fanny & Alexander
The Good Fairy
I Am Ivan
I Hired a Contract Killer
In Bruges
Killer of Sheep
Mad Hot Ballroom
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Midnight Cowboy
Napoleon
The Princess Bride
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Red Balloon
Our Town
Out of Africa
Superman (w/ Christopher Reeve)
Taxi Driver
To Kill A Mockingbird

Share this post