'My fate is in your hands now': The Catlow owner asks for more help -- or advice to give up

  • The owner of The Catlow theater in Barrington is asking for public donations to help pay for needed upgrades at the nearly 95-year-old cinema -- or for advice that he should give up and sell the historic venue.

      The owner of The Catlow theater in Barrington is asking for public donations to help pay for needed upgrades at the nearly 95-year-old cinema -- or for advice that he should give up and sell the historic venue. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2021

 
 
Updated 3/28/2022 10:44 AM

Amid years of struggles to stay afloat, the owner of Barrington's The Catlow theater is again asking the community for financial help -- or to tell him it's time to give up and sell the historic movie house.

In a message sent to patrons late Sunday night, Tim O'Connor writes that he needs money for back taxes, licenses, utilities, fines and many costly repairs needed for the nearly 95-year-old theater's downtown building.

 

"I've been through this before and it's not an easy task to ask for your help yet once again," O'Connor writes. "I desperately need help to hold onto the theater."

O'Connor writes that's he's started an online GoFundMe fundraiser at gofund.me/120f2b29 seeking donations. As of Monday morning, $896 had been donated toward a $35,000 goal.

"Today, I'm asking, one last time, for your help," O'Connor writes on the fundraising page. "The need, this time, is even more critical."

According to O'Connor, the Catlow for decades had protected status as a historic building, and some upgrades were not mandated by Barrington village code because the building was "grandfathered." That has since changed, O'Connor writes, and the village now says significant changes are needed to reopen the theater, which has been closed since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

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"We're in a 'Catch 22' situation," O'Connor wrote on the fundraising page, adding that he has a June deadline to make the upgrades or lose the theater. "We have significant financial needs but we are blocked from earning money to meet those needs until we address the outstanding matters."

O'Connor states that donations would help fund plans to convert the cinema into a not-for-profit venue for live music and stage performances, as well as movies.

"This is just what our community needs to bring us out of the (COVID) pandemic doldrums," he writes.

It isn't the first time O'Connor has turned to the public for financial assistance needed to keep the theater operating. In 2012, the theater launched a $100,000 online fundraising effort to pay for a digital projector required for new movie releases. The theater received 1,394 donations totaling $175,395 when the full 60-day campaign ended.

Five years later, O'Conor launched an effort to raise $40,000 in donations to help pay the costs of improving the neighboring sandwich shop he also owns. That campaign raised $7,906.

But his latest request comes with a twist: O'Connor asks patrons not inclined to donate to let him know if it's time to give up on The Catlow.

"I had great plans, but my fate is in your hands now." he writes. "If you think I should move on, just send me an email with ... SELL -- and, if you wish, any comments as to why you feel that way."

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