Bowman Theater closing, hopes for community step-up

The Bowman Theater has been operating in Bowman for 50+ years.  My parents, Ken and Sharon Steiner, and aunt and uncle, Chris and Elmer Steiner, bought the business around 1970.  Greg and Cindy Steiner and Melissa Case have been successfully operating the business for the past 15 years after buying it. 

Kenneth Steiner

They have reached a point in their lives where they are moving onto a new stage and location.  Although they have explored options of selling the business in the past two years, they have maintained its operation due to their commitment to the business and the community.  They operated the business from their new location on a long-distance basis commuting on a weekly basis to attend to business operations. For note, I am assisting my cousins in making this option a reality with no intended benefit other than seeing the Bowman Theater continue to operate. 

They have reached a point where they are not able to make that same commitment this coming winter.  They have set a December 31, 2018, deadline to either transfer ownership of the business or close it.  They are willing to consider options if a viable option is being developed or created between now and the end of the year.

As the Facebook page indicated, they believe the best outcome would be for the business to become community owned.  Before the strategy to reach our goal is explained, we want to be transparent with how the funds that are raised will be used. 

First, until we reach the intended target in our efforts to transfer ownership to the community, no one’s checks will be cashed.  No money will be transferred or paid to anyone until a predetermined goal has been reached.  The community will be updated on an ongoing basis. 

The strategy to facilitate the transfer of ownership from the current owners to the community will involve using a coop model.  We are currently working out the details of registration with the State of ND.  Residents from the region are being asked to join the coop as members.  We are targeting $100/member, but are flexible in making that final determination.  No one will be refused membership if they cannot pay the full amount, but want to contribute something.  Two options are possible.  The current owners are willing to maintain ownership of the building with a lease back to the coop entity.  The plan would be for the new coop entity to be responsible for any and all maintenance and the payment simply covering the current cost of the building expenses.  A local bank has a loan on the property with a current balance of approximately $40,000.  The building was damaged over the summer leaving a repair bill with approximately $23,000 remaining.  The building and business were estimated to be worth approximately $100,000 – $120,000 last spring. 

To cover some operational costs over the years, the owners have made personal loans to the business totaling approximately $57,000.   If the owners maintain ownership of the building, a total of $57,000 would need to be reached to successfully transfer ownership to the community.  If the building loan and repair bill are included, the total would be $120,000.  Either of these totals are bottom line numbers to make this a successful transaction.  Although the numbers are not 100% accurate, they are generally close.  If progress is being made, an option of maintaining operations after the end of the calendar year is possible. 

We are asking members of the region to respond to this request in an effort to maintain the Bowman Theater as an asset in the community.  We believe the theater is and has been an asset to people in multiple communities throughout the region.  If the residents throughout the region respond to this request, we are sure we can accomplish this effort to transfer ownership of the Bowman Theater to a community coop model. 

Other than the benefit of maintaining a community asset, please understand becoming a member will have no direct tangible or financial benefit for the foreseeable future.  Essentially, purchasing a membership is NOT an investment.  Please do not join if you cannot afford it.  However, if you are able to make a contribution beyond the single $100 membership cost, please do.  Note, paying more than the single membership cost will not provide any greater direct benefit.  Since the region generally has a strong business climate, we are asking businesses to step up and become members, also.  Companies that choose to participate are encouraged to consider a higher contribution as well.  We will publish the method to make your membership contribution on the Bowman Theater Facebook page.   We anticipate simply using a PO Box.  Please only pay by check.  Please keep a copy of the check you sent.  If our efforts are unsuccessful, everyone will receive a full and complete refund. 

Residents of the region, please seriously consider allowing the Bowman Theater to stay in operation for years to come.  The Bowman Community Theater, PO Box 373 has been created to accept memberships or donations.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this opportunity.