Cates is the son of Gil Cates, the late producer who helped create what is now the Geffen Playhouse in the mid-1990s, and who led the theater for most of that time until his death in 2011.
In a recent interview, Cates said his new title would take effect June 1. He said that he and artistic director Randall Arney were equals in the organization are working together to lead the company.
Cates stepped in as interim managing director in February following the departure of Ken Novice, who had held the role for more than five years. The company has declined to discuss the nature of Novice's departure.
Novice declined to comment on Thursday.
Cates said he was bringing a continuity of leadership to the Geffen that was started by his father. "I bring an element of what he had in terms of fundraising and ties to the film industry," said Cates, who has directed and produced several feature films.
Cates said that one of the biggest projects on his plate was a fundraising campaign intended to ensure the theater's financial stability for years to come. He declined to elaborate about the campaign, except to say that it was an initiative that his father had discussed.
Leaders of the Geffen Playhouse have spoken for years about building an endowment, but the most recent recession has been a major setback for those plans.
He also said that attracting new, younger audiences was crucial for the company. "For me there's an audience that is loyal to our theater and the question is how do we keep our loyal audience and attract a new audience? That's really important to me," Cates said.
The Geffen's new season will include "These Paper Bullets!" -- the latest musical from Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. The season will also include recent works by noted playwrights