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Free movies got too complicated


The city of Medford was right to balk at supporting a &

36;70,000 project

A warm night, a classic flick and film fans sprawled on a lawn: The summer movie series at parks in Medford and near Ruch should have been as simple as that.

If it had been, it might still be around today.

A Mail Tribune story Monday outlined the demise of the series, known as the Starlite Classic Movie Festival. Organizers presented 10 movies annually at Bear Creek Park in Medford and Cantrall-Buckley Park near Ruch. They estimate about 25,000 people watched during the festival's several-year run.

No wonder it was popular. The series had all the makings of a great community event ' it was free, it brought people together and it was fun.

But it fell apart this spring when the city of Medford balked at putting public money toward the project, which had grown to include a &

36;70,000 budget, pre-movie entertainment and paid workers.

— We don't doubt that presenter Bob Campbell, who came up with the idea for the series, was sincere in his desire to make it something good for the community. We don't doubt he gave his all in an attempt to make it happen without a lot of city backing. But we think it grew more complex than it should have.

Only &

36;11,000 of Campbell's &

36;70,000 budget for 2002 went to pay for movies. Of the rest, &

36;15,000 was for pre-movie entertainment, including audience giveaways, stage shows and equipment; &

36;11,500 was for advertising; &

36;26,000 was to pay producers, designers and technicians, among others; and &

36;6,500 was for administrative expenses.

The city, which chipped in to cover some costs early in the series' life and gave Campbell &

36;5,000 last year, said it couldn't, in a time when budgets are being cut, get more deeply involved.

We'd say this is a direction the city should avoid regardless of its finances. Given the costs outlined in the budget, the movie festival was on its way to becoming something far different than a simple community event.

Sadly, that may mean the movies are gone for good. Parks workers say they see no way to continue ' Campbell owns the screen films were shown on, and even if the city had its own screen, workers lack the time and expertise to pull off a movie series on their own.

Instead, they hope someone with both will come forward with a plan to revive the series on a smaller, simpler scale.

Classic movie fans across the valley would hoist their popcorn tubs in gratitude if they did.