Back in 2012, when Elissa Glickman first took the role of chief executive for Glendale Arts — the nonprofit that manages the Alex Theatre on behalf of the city of Glendale — the state dissolved the city’s Redevelopment Agency, and with it, an annual $415,000 for the venue.
The following year, a 6,600-square-foot renovation that included expanded wing space, dressing rooms and loading docks closed the theater for several months and led to a six-figure deficit.
Years later, the 1,400-seat Alex Theatre is continuing a rebound of success that started during fiscal year 2016, posting a positive first half for fiscal year 2017.
A combination of earned income, fundraising and a packed December schedule — the theater’s busiest time of the year — led to $800,000 in gross revenue. After expenses, it’s nearly $50,000 in the black, according to Glickman.
In addition to acting as steward of the historic venue, Glickman said the staff at Glendale Arts believe it’s important to balance that duty with accessible free programming in the community made possible by partnerships with the Glendale Library, Arts & Culture Department and area nonprofits.
“There were some notable events that took place, especially in the second quarter,” Glickman said. “We had Bernie Sanders at the Alex, and then in the first quarter, we launched our first ever Open Arts and Music Festival in September — an annual free event in front of the theater.”
Glickman said some of the most successful productions were by the Los Angeles Ballet and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.
Glendale Arts received $415,000 as a management fee from the city for the previous two fiscal years. For this and next year, that amount will drop to $200,000 and then to $150,000 in fiscal year 2020. Glendale Arts can then renegotiate with the city for a five-year extension on the current lease and management fee.
Although the venue’s renovations are almost four years old, they’re a gift that keeps on giving, Glickman said, because the extra space and accommodations encourage past performers to return as well as attract new bookings.
“People are now aware that we have these new amenities. We have very active calls from many promoters who are interested in using the Alex,” Glickman said. “So it’s still a part of the conversation even though it’s been a few years and it’s still one of the major attractions for the theater to bring new business in.”
The goal for the Alex is to book 230 dates this fiscal year and max out at 250 dates by 2020.