Theater has bad quarter

Glendale News Press

CITY HALL — The historic Alex Theatre had a particularly rough third quarter, according to the latest financial report, but theater officials say a major television booking has helped bring in more revenue as the nonprofit finishes the fiscal year.

For the three-month reporting period ending March 31, the theater experienced an 8% drop in revenue and a nearly 20% dip in attendance, compared with the same period last year, according to the report from Glendale Arts, the nonprofit that runs the Alex.

The numbers represented a slide backward for the venue, which was on the rebound during the first half of the fiscal year.

Without the annual $415,000 subsidy from the Redevelopment Agency, called a "management fee," the theater would be about $350,000 in the red, according to the report.

"It's times such as these that the agency's annual funding allows the theater to remain competitive in the region," said Elena Bolbolian, a senior administrative analyst with the Community Redevelopment & Housing Department. "We all know that the theater is an important cultural asset in our city, particularly in our downtown."

In recent years the theater has struggled with bookings and attendance amid the protracted recession, driving theater officials to implement a host of marketing efforts and cost-cutting measures, including special package rates for business meetings and film screenings. They also cut box-office hours, implemented a salary freeze and put greater reliance on part-time workers.

Still, officials said April bookings for the live filming of the NBC reality show "Last Comic Standing" will likely help the theater end the fiscal year in June at a similar standing to last year, when the venue reported a $55,692 surplus.

"This whole year has been a little bit of a roller coaster," Barry McComb, executive director of Glendale Arts, said Wednesday.

And with "Last Comic Standing" set to film again during the summer months — a typically slow time for the Alex — McComb said the theater is set for a strong start for the next fiscal year.

The theater was initially supposed to be closed this summer to accommodate construction on a major city-funded renovation of the theater's forecourt, but design delays postponed construction another year.

The renovations are one of a number of upgrades in the pipeline, which officials say will help the Alex become more competitive when the economy recovers.

"I know that we've been in a terrible recession, still in it, that's affected every industry, business, person in the United States, the same with theaters," Councilman Dave Weaver said. "That's just the way it is in these times."

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