In just one week, a fledgling campaign to revive two historic movie theatres has raised more than a third of its $1 million goal.

Mark Snider, an Edgartown hotelier who last week announced the creation of a new nonprofit to renovate and lease the Strand and Capawock cinemas, said he had collected $350,000 in pledges since last Friday.

“So far, the response has just been remarkable,” Mr. Snider told the Gazette by phone Thursday morning.

Movies could return soon to Capawock Theatre. — Mark Lovewell

Aggressive fundraising continues for the next three weeks, during which time Mr. Snider hopes to raise $1 million toward the renovation of the downtown theatres, the purchase of film equipment and a lease of the buildings from the Hall family. Mr. Snider said he expects to finalize a lease agreement with Benjamin Hall Jr., trustee for the buildings’ ownership, next week.

The Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation, the nonprofit, will lease each of the theatres for 10 years. The plan calls for the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society to staff, operate and coordinate programming for the two theatres.

Meanwhile, Mr. Snider is assembling a board of directors for the foundation, which as of Thursday included singer-songwriter Carly Simon, who lives year round in Vineyard Haven.

He said the formation of the nonprofit has brought out a lot of passion and excitement for the project.

“These buildings don’t just represent movies,” Mr. Snider said. “They represent the heart and soul of the main streets.”

Though ambitious, Mr. Snider’s plan is not without precedent.

Mark Snider: "These buildings don't just represent movies...they represent the heart and soul of main streets." — Mark Lovewell

The project draws inspiration from successful revivals of historic film venues in other communities.

Across the country, historic downtown cinemas have fallen into disuse, as attendance waned and multiplex theatres drew moviegoers to the suburbs.

In some places, communities have rallied to reopen them.

On Cape Cod, Chatham’s historic Chatham Orpheum Theater reopened two years ago, after decades as a retail space.

The Main street theatre first showed films in 1916 and continued for 72 years, before closing in the 1980s. Then, following a two-year grass-roots campaign which raised a total of $4 million, including grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Community Preservation Act, the theatre opened in July of 2013.

“It was kind of a miraculous process,” said Naomi Turner, who led the restoration effort.

The campaign attracted support from a large portion of Chatham’s winter and summer residents, many of whom had patronized the historic theatre.

Time has stood still at Capawock since doors closed in 2013. — Mark Lovewell

“Everyone in town remembered or had heard about the magic of having a downtown movie theatre and most of us had memories of seeing particular movies there,” Ms. Turner said. She received letters from people all over town, who wrote about their best memories from the movie theatre: a 75-year-old couple who spent their first date at the movie house, year-rounders in Chatham who saved their money to attend the movies twice a week.

“It was just a part of everyone’s history, everyone’s past,” Ms. Turner said.

The theatre is open year round and screens first-run, classic and independent films, along with other community events. It is the only movie house in town. “It really has created in the off-season a sense of community that is important for life in Chatham,” Ms. Turner said.

On sister island Nantucket, philanthropists raised $33 million to purchase and reopen the historic Dreamland Theatre in a matter of four years.

When they bought it, the movie house had fallen into serious disrepair: the second floor was shot, insulation was poor and much of the seating had been destroyed, said Melissa Murphy, executive director of the year-round movie theatre.

Instead of rehabilitating the theatre, the Nantucket Dreamland Foundation had it rebuilt, conserving as many architectural features of the building as possible.

The land and building cost $10.9 million and construction was another $23 million, which included precautions for flooding (the theatre is 30 feet from the Nantucket harbor), and a geothermal cooling and heating system.

Like Chatham residents, Nantucketers were drawn to the project by their love for the historic theatre.

“I think for some board members and community members it was a nostalgia for what was, and for other people there was the potential of what could be,” Ms. Murphy said. Having a theatre downtown also improves business, she said. “It is a healthy economic engine for the community,” she said.

If all goes according to plan, the Strand and Capawock theatres will follow suit this summer. The two theatres are also in better physical shape than the one on Nantucket. In an interview with the Gazette last week, Mr. Snider said beyond cosmetic architectural improvements, the bulk of the work will involve upgrading the technology and other equipment at the theatres. Mr. Snider wants to screen Cinema Paradiso first, an Italian film about a movie theatre which is rebuilt after a fire, only to be demolished later against tough competition from television and multi-screen theatres.

For now, it looks like the Vineyard theatres have escaped a similar fate.

For more information, email info@mvtheaters.org or call 508-310-7837. Checks can be sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation c/o Winnetu Oceanside Resort, 31 Dunes Road, Edgartown, MA, 02539.

Demographics: