A secret financial disaster

News this past weekend that the Colony Theatre faced imminent closure amid a sea of red ink took Burbank by surprise — and that in no small part is what's so troubling.

In the so-called Media City — which, by the way, has an Art in Public Places Committee, Cultural Arts Commission and economic development team at City Hall — one would think the financial woes of a theater company in Burbank since 2000 would have hit someone's radar before such a dire situation popped.

But it didn't.

Over the last weekend, the Colony Theatre sent out an Internet plea for help: The company has run out of money and must raise $49,000 in the next two weeks — and $500,000 by the end of the calendar year — in order to remain open.

Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy summed up much of the community reaction, saying she was “shocked” and “had no idea.”

But according to the theater's operators, single-ticket sales have fallen consistently since 2011, as has its subscriber base, declining to about 3,000 subscribers from a high of 3,800 subscribers in 2008.

Surely, theater officials should have rang the alarm well before now, and someone — anyone — at city hall should have seen it coming well before it smacked everyone in the head.

Now, Burbank is in the unenviable position of having to answer a pretty tall financial order — and with just a week left before the curtain falls.

Community theaters may not be huge revenue drivers for cities on the order of, say, a Walmart or IKEA, but they do afford a certain amount of cultural prestige. Glendale took a big hit when it let A Noise Within get poached away by Pasadena. For a city that bills itself as an entertainment media hub — what with the Walt Disney studios, Warner Bros., ABC and others — to lose the Colony Theatre to financial ruin would certainly leave a scar.

Pitty, because it seems this injury could have been prevented, had the channels of communication been used more effectively earlier on.

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