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Glendale Arts brings another year of success to Alex Theatre despite setbacks

Glendale Arts brings another year of success to Alex Theatre despite setbacks
Dozens of people in line at the Alex Theatre to get their wrist bands for the Taste of Glendale on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. Presented by Glendale Healthy Kids in association with Glendale Arts. (Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

This month marks yet another year of financial success for the Alex Theatre, only a few years after it faced a six-figure deficit, according to officials with Glendale Arts, the nonprofit that manages the venue on behalf of the city of Glendale.

In a report last week to City Council, Elissa Glickman, chief executive of Glendale Arts, said the nonprofit finished with a $114,285 surplus to close out fiscal year 2016-17 — a profit for the third time in six years and two years in a row.

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The Alex Theatre itself hit a profit of $195,462 last fiscal year which ended on June 30, down from $232,234 the previous fiscal year.

“Our path to self-sufficiency… takes an investment and a commitment from the entire community,” Glickman said. “It’s an understanding that an investment in the arts is an investment in property values… and quality of life.”

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As part of a 2015 management agreement with Glendale Arts that runs through 2020, the city pays the organization to operate the venue on a sliding scale.

As a steward, the nonprofit books talent for the theater as well as controls the brand and image in the community by promoting events such as the Taste of Downtown Glendale annual food festival.

Glendale Arts received $415,000 as a management fee from the city for each of the first two fiscal years of the agreement. For last and this year, that amount dropped to $200,000 a year and then decrease to $150,000 in fiscal year 2019-20.

Glendale Arts has an option to renegotiate with the city for a five-year extension on the current lease and management fee.

A 6,600-square-foot renovation closed the theater for several months in 2012 and contributed to a deficit that the theater rebounded from in fiscal year 2015-16.

The nonprofit reported $2.3 million in revenues with $2.2 million in expenses last fiscal year. Although a healthy year for Glendale Arts, the roughly $114,000 surplus is a decline from the previous fiscal year’s $199,651 profit.

Glickman attributed the loss to problems with securing enough gigs and costs associated with events such as the Open Arts Music Festival.

The number of theater patrons did increase by 896, to about 95,000, but the nonprofit missed its target of 230 bookings and was down overall from the previous fiscal year by seven, due to “last-minute cancellations,” Glickman said.

“There are a variety of reasons that cancellations happened, but some of those… were specific to visa challenges that some of our promoters had,” she added.

Glendale Arts’ investment in the second annual Open Arts & Music Festival — a free live music with craft beers and workshop events — came at a loss during the nonprofit’s third quarter, as Glickman reported planning costs of about $52,000 for the festival.

When asked by City Councilman Zareh Sinanyan if the non-Alex Theatre events were a distraction to the business of operating the venue, they are “complementary,” Glickman said.

“The Alex can’t be, for physical reasons, booked 365 days a year and there’s no way to grow… the Alex Theatre operation without the entire community really understanding the true value of what the arts can bring in its totality,” Glickman said.

Recent notable events at the Alex included an Armenian Genocide commemoration, sold-out appearances by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as well as evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

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