Olympic Theatre Foundation moves forward with nonprofit status

ARLINGTON — Members of Save the Olympic Theatre met on Saturday, June 1, to discuss the status of the Olympic Theatre Foundation, which was issued its Certificate of Incorporation by the Washington Secretary of State on May 7, and had already filed for expedited nonprofit status with the IRS.

On Friday, May 31, at 9:25 a.m., the IRS officially received the application, which was signed for by K. Scheit of the IRS office in Kentucky.

"Let's face it, we're dealing with the IRS here, but we are optimistic that the application will go right into the process, and that we'll see a favorable result," said Lisa Clarke, president of the Olympic Theatre Foundation. "Foundations can come together quickly, but obtaining tax exempt status generally takes some time. We're fortunate to have a strong team of professionals supporting us, who know what they're doing."

The Olympic Theatre Foundation plans to staff volunteer committees and ultimately launch a membership campaign, with its first gala scheduled for October. It grew out of the Save the Olympic Theatre volunteer campaign, made up of community members who rallied around Olympic Theatre owner and operator Norma Pappas when she realized that, after 36 years of running the single-screen movie theater in downtown Arlington, an impending and expensive transition to digital equipment would force her to make some difficult decisions.

"I really wanted the theater to remain in operation for the benefit of the community, but it wasn't clear how we could make that happen," Pappas said.

"Once it became apparent that the community was willing to step up, we knew it was worth the continued effort to find a solution," said William Frankhouser, who helped spearhead the Save the Olympic Theatre campaign, capitalizing upon social media and other outlets, including news media such as The Arlington Times, to generate enough interest to form what would become the Olympic Theatre Foundation.

"We reviewed the overall situation and case studies from other theaters that have been in the same situation," Clarke said. "We determined that the business is viable, with reasonable and achievable annual support from the community. It became evident that the best way forward was through a nonprofit structure, such that donations and membership fees could augment the revenue from theater operations. It's going to take the ongoing commitment of a strong and experienced team of leaders to take this forward."

The Olympic Theatre Foundation's first order of business is transitioning the old movie theater to digital equipment, and OTF Board member Val Kellogg has consulted with the volunteers who have conducted the necessary technical and procurement analyses.

"We're fortunate that a generous donor has stepped forward to help fund this significant purchase," Kellogg said. "It's now our obligation to make sure the investment takes the theater solidly into the future. It's not a simple task, and we have some work left to do before the equipment can be ordered and installed."

"I'm thrilled that we were able to find a formula for success," said Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert. "The theater is important to the vitality of downtown, and it is an incredible win that this foundation has come together to take the reins."

Community members are encouraged to visit the Olympic Theatre website at, which provides links to the Olympic Theatre Foundation's website, currently under construction. FAQs are expected to be posted within the next few weeks.

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