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United Palace Film Campaign Reaches Funding Goal

By Nigel Chiwaya | July 9, 2013 5:40pm
  Strong community support has the UPCA's effort to return film to Washington Heights almost fully funded.
United Palace Tries to Return Film to Washington Heights
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WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The United Palace of Cultural Arts successfully completed its funding campaign Tuesday afternoon, marking a huge step in returning film to Washington Heights.

The UPCA, which launched the campiagn to raise $40,000 for new projectors for the 83-year-old theater in May, crossed the funding threshold on the wave of over $1,800 in single-day donations.

When reached by DNAinfo New York, UPCA programming director Mike Fitelson expressed gratitude to the hundreds of supporters donated to the campaign.

"It's beautiful that close to 400 people shared the same dream that we did in the Heights to restore movies to this beautiful palace," Fitelson said.

The Indiegogo campaign lists over 360 donors as having contributed to the campaign, but the actual number is even higher, as the number doesn't include donors who passed out money at several film screenings held at the Palace over the last 40 days.

And the while most of the contributions fall in the $10-$100 range, Fitelson said that UPCA staffers were shocked by a $5,000 donation that arrived immediately after the New York Times ran a story on the campaign on June 22.

"When the story hit the paper on Saturday that 5K donation was made before 9 a.m.," Fitelson said. "That is just unbelievable."

The Palace, built as one of five Loews "Wonder Theaters" in 1930, last showed regular films in 1969, when it was purchased by the late Rev. Frederick Eikerenkoetter II. Eikerenkoetter's United Christian Evangelical Association church maintains the building to this day.

With the campaign completed, the United Palace will look to purchase two projectors, which Fitelson previous estimated at $16,000. The UPCA will also use the donations to clean the theater's 50-foot silver screen. Leftover funds will be put toward programming events.

The UPCA will be holding one final campaign event on Wednesday—a concert featuring Peter Walsh, the owner of the popular Washington Heights restaurant Coogan's. Walsh and his band PW Coogan's and the Macombs Dam Bridge will be celebrating the release of their album, "Macombs Dam Bridge," while toasting the success of the UPCA's efforts.

"This concert is going to help seal victory on this battle," said Fitelson.

Fitelson said the UPCA will continue hosting film events this year, including a view's choice night in August where fans will be able to choose between the "Wizard of Oz" and "Star Wars." Other nights that the UPCA would like to host include a Halloween-themed screening, a holiday event and a possible film festival.

In addition, Fitelson said that the UPCA will huddle with area artists to develop a programming schedule for 2014 that emphasizes documentaries, classic, cult and independent films.

"We want to figure out how can pull together a series that touches one or several of those," said Fitelson.