Although the renovated Alex Theater lost at least $277,000 in its first year as a performing arts center, its backers said Friday that an upcoming change in management should help steer the troubled venue onto a more successful path.
Accountants who prepared the Alex Regional Theater Board's 1994 finance report said the theater's net loss last year, plus other financial problems, "raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue."
But the auditors agreed with members of the theater board that most of the money woes were caused by the early pullout of Theater Corp. of America (TCA) and that the theater can survive with continued public support and city subsidies.
"Before the city spent even a dime on renovating the Alex, it was known that the theater was going to require subsidies in order to sustain itself because it was seen as a community theater," said Bruce Hinckley, chairman of the theater board's finance subcommittee.
Hinckley said the only way the theater could operate without subsidies would be to halt its use by nonprofit organizations that pay only the theater's overhead costs for their events and rent it out only for commercial shows.
"But that is not our philosophy," he said.
The city's Redevelopment Agency purchased the 1,470-seat Art Deco theater from Mann Theatre Corp. in 1991 after a community drive to turn it into a performing arts house.
The city then spent $6.5 million to restore it.
Last July, TCA announced it had run out of funds and could not put on three musicals for which tickets were already sold.
The city has filed suit against TCA to recover money for 11,000 subscribers.
The theater board is expected to select a new theater manager in March. Until then, officials said they will not know what sort of programs will be booked at the theater and cannot project how much the theater will require in city subsidies for 1995.
But Hinckley said the Alex will need much less than the $350,000 of previous estimates.
Despite the theater's rocky first year, officials also said the Alex has already begun to fulfill one of its missions: to bring a touch of night life to Brand Boulevard.
According to the finance report, 120,000 patrons attended events at the Alex last year.
"Aside from the hard bump we ran into and the negative publicity it's received, I think it did fairly well," said Rick Reyes, chairman of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency.