Theatre extends essay contest

8 years ago

     HOULTON, Maine — The deadline to submit essays for a chance to win the historic Temple Theatre has been extended.

     According to owner Mike Hurley, the decision was made to delay the writing contest deadline after the giveaway garnered national media attention. The last day for entries is now Feb. 3, 2016

     Essays must be no longer than 250 words centered on the subject “Why would you be the best person (or family or group) to be the new owner of the Temple Theatre in historic downtown Houlton, Maine?”

     The winner will get the keys to the theatre, and become a landlord for the tenants in the office space above the building, Hurley will also be making money on the deal. Each essay must be accompanied by a $100 entry fee and there must be a minimum of 3,500 entries (or close to that figure) in order for a winner to be chosen.

     Should the minimum number of entries not be received, the entry fees will be returned. If enough essays are not received, Hurley said he will likely resurrect his plan to sell the property through traditional means.

     “Each day we get a pile and it’s growing fast,” Hurley said. “We can’t say how many we have received as yet. Not enough to close the contest but a lot. We’ll know better in a few weeks.”

     In an article featured on CNN, Hurley was quoted as saying the number of essays received as of Jan. 1 was “in the several hundreds.”

     Groups are welcomed to enter the contest, Hurley said. One entry could also be done by 10 individuals, for example, therefore the cost would only be $10 per person. Hurley said his lawyers have assured him that every legal step has been followed in starting up the contest and he could only dream that his contest goes as well as the recent one that awarded an historic inn in the western Maine mountains.

     All entries will be judged anonymously, Hurley said, so the essay should not reveal too much information about the author. The lucky winner will get 30 days of training with Hurley and Patrick Blanchette, the theatre manager, and will also receive $25,000 in cash, provided the minimum number of entries are received.

     The building is valued at $203,000, according to Houlton tax documents, while the adjacent parking lot is valued at $32,700 and the winner will be responsible for all property taxes. Hurley stressed the business is debt free.

     The deadline was extended, Hurley said, based on the national and international media attention the contest gained at the first of January.

     “I’ve been contacted by bloggers, managers of various news sites and it’s like one thing leads to 20,” Hurley said. “We’ve managed to get the viral aspect. Will we get the entries? Who knows? It’s all happening in the next 10 days or so.”

     Hurley said he has read some of the essays received and has been moved by the content thus far.

     “The response has been great,” Hurley said. “The essays are beautiful, heart-warming, poignant, hopeful, sincere, and they all deserve to win. It’s really tough, I want them all to have it. It won’t be easy to pick one.”

      If the contest moves forward, Hurley said the essays will first be reviewed by himself and then pared down to a manageable number to be presented to a trio of local judges for review.

     “They don’t know who they are … I have not told them … and it is up to them later to decide if they reveal their identity,” he said. “We hope to decide if we have enough entries to say there will a winner by Feb. 4. We hope it takes no more than 30 days to announce the winner.”