Nine years after opening the Island’s first 21st-century movie theatre in Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard Film Society executive director Richard Paradise is raising money to buy the building from its Tisbury Marketplace landlord, Sam Dunn, for $1.4 million and closing costs.

The society is pre-qualified by Martha’s Vineyard Bank for a 50-year, $700,000 mortgage and pre-approved for a $200,000 facilities grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Mr. Paradise told the Gazette.

He is well on the way to raising the remaining $550,000 of his goal from individual donors in a low-key campaign of direct contact, Mr. Paradise said.

“It’s a soft sell,” he said. “I’m not out there twisting anyone’s arm.”

And while fundraising galas and branded swag may help shake the money tree for many nonprofits’ capital campaigns, this one is doing fine without the hoopla.

“It’s not our heritage,” said Mr. Paradise, who founded the film society in the 1990s as a peripatetic series of screenings around the Island before establishing the film center in late 2012. “We’ve never done big fundraising events. We’ve always managed to get along with earned income being the majority of our budget.”

Buying the building — a condominium within the Tisbury Marketplace development — has been part of the film society’s long-term plan ever since they partnered with Mr. Dunn to construct the theatre, Mr. Paradise said. “I didn’t put any timeline on it. I didn’t want to pressure us.”

But the present time is right for a number of reasons, he said.

“We could actually reduce our operating cost, as it relates to the venue, by being an owner with a mortgage rather than being a renter with a lease,” Mr. Paradise said, noting annual rent increases and 11 years remaining on the lease.

Even with a condo fee to pay instead of rent, he said, the film society will save more than $30,000 a year. Ownership will also give the film society more control over what can be done in the building, as well as a say in how the entire development is run.

“Being the owner gives us more governance in the Tisbury Marketplace condominium association,” Mr. Paradise said.

And historically low mortgage rates make this a propitious time to buy, he said. “We could get a three to four per cent commercial loan for half the purchase price.”

Finally, Mr. Paradise said, he wants to secure the society’s future after his time as executive director ends, whenever that may be.

“When that day comes when I walk into the sunset, à la Charlie Chaplin maybe … and hand the reins over to someone else, I would not feel complete if I was doing that and the building was still being leased,” he said.

With a donation goal of $750,000, Mr. Paradise’s laid-back campaign has already surpassed the half-million-dollar mark. He expects to be fully funded before the end of the year, he said. “We’re only (about) $200,000 away,” Mr. Paradise said. “I haven’t even begun to make a lot of phone calls.”

While Delta variant worries have dented the theatre’s attendance just as it was recovering from first-wave Covid restrictions, Mr. Paradise said he expects full houses for the upcoming season of live-by-satellite Metropolitan Opera performances, opening Oct. 9 with Boris Gudonov starring René Pape.

This season also brings Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones screening on Oct. 23. Co-directed by Camille A. Brown, who has been a choreography resident at the Yard in Chilmark, it is the first opera by a black composer to be presented at the Met.

More information about the film center campaign is posted at