Ragtag becomes nonprofit

The independent theater hopes the change will help it grow.
Monday, January 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:34 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ragtag Cinemacafe, Columbia’s independent theater where you can sit on a sofa and have dinner while watching a movie, now operates as a nonprofit organization.

Charlotte Overby, a member of Ragtag’s seven-person governing board, said becoming a nonprofit organization means Ragtag won’t pay taxes on ticket sales and equipment. It also allows the theater to accept tax-deductible donations.

“Turning into a nonprofit was a good way to let the community have more of a stake in it and let community members determine its fate and its future,” Overby said. “It will help put the theater on a more economically sound footing.”

Tim Spence, also a member of the board, said the change will allow the theater to apply for grants that it can distribute to local filmmakers to help their projects.

“Nonprofit does not only solidify Ragtag as an organization, but it also opens all these doors we didn’t have access to,” Spence said.

David Wilson has been with Ragtag, located at 23 N. Tenth St., since it opened in May 2000. He said Ragtag will continue to program quality films and is not worried about losing public support.

"I think that Ragtag will continue to enjoy strong community support,” Wilson said. He added that the move to nonprofit status would help stabilize Ragtag and ensure its continuing presence as part of the downtown landscape.

Most small independent theaters in the country are nonprofit organizations, and it seemed like a logical step for a theater of Ragtag’s size, Overby said. Ragtag can seat about 60 people.

Only the programming side of the operation will become nonprofit. The cafe will remain a private profit-oriented business.

Overby said the move doesn’t change the relationship Ragtag has with movie distributors and won’t influence Ragtag’s mission to “bring the finest in international, American, independent and documentary films to mid-Missouri.”

“Ragtag still wants to be Columbia’s cultural black sheep, so to speak,” Overby said. “We just want to be able to do it better.”

The theater’s long-term plans include a bigger space, outdoor projections and fund-raisers. Overby said she would also like to see the staff be paid better wages. Most staff members volunteer beyond their paid hours.

“And a bigger popcorn machine,” Overby said, laughing.

Ragtag recently mailed an offer to its mailing subscribers asking them to become “irregulars,” a term that defines its fans and supporters. Ragtag irregulars can benefit from all sorts of special packages and goodies, depending on the type of membership they choose. A “popcorn union irregular” gets a limited edition T-shirt, while a “movie mogul” can pick out and name a new Ragtag chair. Overby said the response has been terrific so far.

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