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Trying to stay in Vogue

Vogue Theater owner Jeff Coates continues to pour his heart and soul into Sackville’s movie house, despite the ongoing struggles of keeping an independently-owned theatre open.
Vogue Theater owner Jeff Coates continues to pour his heart and soul into Sackville’s movie house, despite the ongoing struggles of keeping an independently-owned theatre open. - Katie Tower

Keeping doors of downtown Sackville movie theatre open is day-to-day struggle

SACKVILLE, N.B. —

He would be heartbroken if he had to close the doors of Sackville’s beloved movie theatre. So Jeff Coates continues to fight tooth and nail every day to keep the place open.

The owner of the Vogue Theatre since 2006, Coates said the day-to-day operation of the historic single-screen theatre in downtown Sackville can be a struggle – but for him, the effort is worth it.

Coates said the Vogue is his life and he is doing all he can to ensure a future for the local landmark.

“I’m doing this for me, but I’m also doing this for the community, for the ones who love it here,” he said.

Coates’ biggest challenge came about seven years ago when he had to make the switch to digital to keep the business running. Without it, he wouldn’t have had access to any of the new releases.

At a cost of about $100,000, Coates said digitization took over the market a lot quicker than anticipated and he wasn’t prepared at the time for the added financial burden. He had anticipated having another two to three years before he was forced make the conversion, but he was left instead having to dish out funds he didn’t have. The bank wouldn’t finance the new equipment up front, so he had to search elsewhere, and ended up using some out-of-pocket funds and money from a private investor.

But that money was left still owing, and four years ago Coates even turned to an online kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to pay off the debt. He raised a small amount from that campaign but still continued to labour away to get that off the books. And now he finally has.

But now there’s another pricey obstacle to overcome – a leaky roof.

“It drastically needs to be repaired, like five years ago,” said Coates.

Once again, however, he has not been able to obtain the necessary funding for roof repairs from the banks, so he is set to apply for funds from other lending institutions, such as CBDC.

The estimate for the roof alone is about $40,000 and Coates said there will also be upgrades required inside the theater where the water has damaged some of the walls and ceilings.

With funds having to be directed toward the digitization of the theatre and rising operational costs, Coates said he has had to put the roof repairs on hold, but the damage has taken a toll. The water has destroyed some of the plaster molding inside the building, heritage craftsmanship that simply can’t be replaced. He said it will likely have to be repaired with Gyproc and crackfill, a move he is hesitant to make, but for which he has no choice.

“It sickens me to come in every day and see the damage but there wasn’t anything I could do until all this other stuff was paid off.”

The independently owned and operated theatre, which has been a mainstay in downtown Sackville since 1946, not only offers the latest Hollywood films to local movie-goers but also serves as a venue for a host of community events.

Coates said the theatre actually doesn’t generate most of its revenue from the box office, particularly in recent years when the quality of movies has been questionable; but instead the theatre has been able to survive thanks to all the rentals outside of that aspect.

“If I was truly dependent on Hollywood blockbusters, I would have closed long ago,” he said. “Everything else I do is why I’ve stayed in business. It’s all that other stuff that keeps me going.”

The facility serves as a venue for a Sappyfest and Bordertown concerts, Fall Fair events, local fundraisers and for the Sackville Film Society’s weekly flicks, and much more.

Yet, even as Coates struggles to keep its doors open, he said the one thing he believes he has been able to maintain is the Vogue’s quaintness and its history of providing a great experience.

“We treat people with respect, like you’re family and you’re one of us,” he said. “We engage with people. We’re not just trying to hurdle you through a corral and get you in and out. And I think people appreciate that.”

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