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A Hollywood ending? The clock was ticking toward midnight on Colusa Theatre. Then came ‘...tick...tick...tick...' and a community that rode to the rescue.
It was billed as the "last hurrah" for Colusa Theatre, but thanks to a turnout that far exceeded promoters' expectations, it may have in fact been a send-off for the theater's out-dated film projectors.
On Saturday, owner Mike Wilkinson said he still needed to raise about $18,000 to make the switch to a digital projector. After just two days and two showings of "...tick...tick...tick..." — a locally filmed 1970 movie staring Jim Brown and George Kennedy — that number dropped to an estimated $8,000.
"We're about 80 percent of the way there now," Wilkinson said on Monday night.
The idea to show the movie started with Colusa native Rusty Chambers, who pitched it to Wilkinson and suggested charging just $1 for admission. Chambers said that Wilkinson was not initially sold on the idea of $1 tickets, but he pressed Wilkinson to keep the admission price low to encourage people to attend with their friends and families.
Chambers' idea paid off, as about 700 people showed up to Colusa Theatre on Sunday night. Wilkinson said the line at the ticket window stretched for three-quarters of a block when he arrived to open the doors at 5:30 p.m. — and half of them had to be turned away because the theater's seating capacity had been reached by 5:45 p.m.
"It's been at least two years — since the midnight showing of the last 'Twilight' movie — since we have sold out," said Josh Rector, one of Wilkinson's employees. "Even then, we barely made it. Turning that many people away? That was a first for us."
Dave Bishop, who was volunteering at the ticket window, agreed with Rector.
"It's cool to see so many people in there ... It's been years," Bishop said on Sunday, adding they had already sold 50 tickets for the encore showing at that time. "It's phenomenal. I just can't say 'Thank you, Colusa' enough."
Yet it was not just Colusans, or even Colusa County residents, who came to watch the movie.
People from the Yuba-Sutter area made the trip to Colusa Theatre as well.
"I know for a fact that there were people from Yuba City here, because they were among the people I had to turn away at the door," Wilkinson said.
One such person was Roberta D'Arcy, who traveled from the Yuba County Foothills and contacted the Sun-Herald via email.
"(The) Fundraiser last night at Colusa was so packed we were turned away," D'Arcy wrote. "People in the crowd said they were doing it again tonight. Is this true? We do not want to travel from Yuba County Foothills to Colusa if (it is) not happening."
It was indeed true. Because of the extraordinary turnout on Sunday and the fact that so many people were turned away, Wilkinson and Chambers immediately decided to hold an encore showing on Monday evening.
While the attendance and fundraising at the second showing was comparatively small, there were still more than 100 people there — many of whom were unable to get into the theater the previous night — and the second auction generated more than $1,000 alone.
"What a turnout. I'm running on two hours of sleep ... I couldn't fall asleep last night because I was thinking about all of this," an exhausted Wilkinson said after the unplanned Monday showing. "I'm counting anything tonight. Right now, I'm going to get some sleep."