Zach Braff donation helps Monte Rio theater buy digital equipment

Robert Neir and Sage O'Connell dance to bluegrass music in front of the Rio Theater in Monte Rio, Calif., as musicians practice before a concert to raise funds for the historic theater.
(Peter DaSilva / For the Los Angeles Times)

Even as Zach Braff was taking heat for asking the public to help finance his next movie, the actor and director was contributing to another Kickstarter campaign -- to help save a historic theater in Northern California.

Braff was among nearly 500 donors who helped raise $65,753 through the Kickstarter crowd-funding site to help the owners of the Rio Theater in the small town of Monte Rio raise enough funds to buy a digital projector. As the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday, many small-town theaters nationwide are holding such fundraisers to survive the transition to digital.

Don and Suzi Schaffert reached their goal of raising a minimum of $60,000 with just days before the May 7 funding deadline, with a key assist from at least one Hollywood celebrity.


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“Zach Braff just put us over our goal!” Suzi Schaffert posted in a comment on the crowd-funding site last week. “How appropriate that an actor, writer, director, and producer with his own Kickstarter project just put us over our goal!!!!”

A spokeswoman for Braff said he would not comment on his donation to the Rio.

The donation came in the wake of criticism Braff received for launching his own Kickstarter campaign to fund his latest film “Wish I was Here,” about a struggling actor’s existential crisis.

It took Braff only three days to reach his $2-million fundraising goal, which followed a similarly successful fundraiser for “Veronica Mars,” the TV show that recently used Kickstarter to raise more than $5.7 million from 91,585 donors.

But the idea of a celebrity asking the public to help finance a movie sparked a backlash, with some critics suggesting Braff was misusing the site, or taking away from lesser-known projects. Braff told The Times in an earlier interview that he was surprised by reaction.

“It’s not like I’ve taken over Kickstarter,” he said in an interview last week. “It’s not like I lobbied Congress to pass a tax to finance my movie. It’s just sitting there in a corner of the site. If you want to wave at it and back it as you’re passing by, great. If not, you can just move along and that’s fine too.”



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