TIPTON, Iowa — A Tipton movie theater will be taking a step in the digital direction.

The nonprofit Hardacre Theater Preservation Association signed a purchase agreement Monday with the current owners of the one-screen Hardacre Theater, 112 E. 5th St.

As the movie industry transitions to all-digital production by 2015, the Hardacre Theater still projects 35mm film and needs a costly upgrade.

Greg Brown of Tipton is the president of the Hardacre Theater Preservation Association, which consists of community members.

Brown said the association learned of the opportunity to purchase the theater, owned by Virginia Cook, 90, after about a year of off-and-on negotiations.

“We couldn’t raise (any money) until we knew we’d be able to buy the theater,” Brown said. “The next step is figuring out how much it is going to take to make all the repairs and improvements to the theater.”

The group will begin to strategize on fundraising efforts. One fundraiser earlier this year by Tipton Middle School students raised several hundred dollars through T-shirt sales.

“A small group will help with the fundraising, and that should all start to get rolling next week or so,” Brown said.

Will Valet, director of the annual Hardacre Film Festival, said he’s glad the nonprofit group is getting the chance to save the theater.

“Considering the theater is the festival’s namesake, it’s obviously really important to keep it running so the festival can continue,” Valet said. “But more than that, having a classic movie palace for our venue is really important to the experience of the film festival.”

Valet said Stuart Clark of Tipton has been leasing the theater from the building owners and operating the theater business.

“Stu deserves a great deal of credit for keeping the theater running all this time,” Valet said.

Brown said without the association stepping in, it was a given the theater would have eventually shut down.

“The theater is not able to make enough in ticket sales to make the $100,000 expenses for digital equipment,” Brown said.

The theater, which has been in continuous use since 1916, began showing movies in 1920, Brown said. He said he’d like to keep that tradition going.

“We’ve got quite the project ahead of us for the next year or two,” Brown said. “It’s going to take a lot of effort and donations to get the theater weather-tight.”

To help

To make a donation to the Hardacre Theater Preservation Association, contact Abby Kisling, Tipton community director, at 563-886-4597.