Two years ago I founded the Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation and led the effort to save and preserve the Vineyard’s unique and iconic historic theatres. Through an intensive Island-wide fundraising effort, we successfully rehabilitated and reopened the Capawock Theatre and the Strand Theatre in 2015. During those early days, when all of us who were involved with the Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation decided to try and save the theatres, we knew that it was critical that our goals were realistic and achievable, and we had to make the practical financial decision to focus on only one of the Oak Bluffs theatres.

We chose the Strand because less work was needed to re-open it. It was painful to leave out the Island Theatre, but we didn’t see a way to raise the large sum required. Anyone who has gone to an event at either the Capawock or the Strand over the last two years knows how wonderful it is to have these facilities back supporting and giving joy to the Island community.

The Hall family leased the Strand and Capawock theatres to the Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation with long term agreements, and after the Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation raised the money and rehabilitated the theatres, we partnered with the MV Film Society to operate them. Today, the MV Film Society, under the able leadership of Richard Paradise, runs both of these beautiful buildings as well as the Film Society’s own Film Center in Vineyard Haven. As both of our organizations are non-profits, continued community support is critical to keeping these theaters open.

Over the last two years, approximately 25,000 patrons have gone to the theatres each season. Patrons at the theatres have been an economic boost to Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, shopping and dining before or after a show – the Capawock is open April to January, and the Strand from May to October.

I rarely think back to disbelief about whether we could save the Strand and the Capawock theaters. Instead, I think of all the happy visitors that have loved going to the movies and live performances over the last two years now that they are reopened and the economic benefits to the communities they serve.

In my opinion, the Strand and Capawock theatres showcase what is possible when everyone rallies around a clear, shared goal. Focusing on the Island Theatre’s past problems will not help it survive. I believe there is a potential future for the Island Theatre that honors its iconic history and so many of our memories while also becoming a viable operating business that may not be a movie theater in the traditional sense. But it will need leadership, creative thought and the support of the community.

Mark Snider is the president and founder of the Martha’s Vineyard Theater Foundation.