Alex Theatre stages a comeback

Event activity and attendance at the Alex Theatre jumped by about 14% this fiscal year, officials reported Tuesday — a sign that the historic venue is coming back to life after a two-year slump.

Glendale’s Redevelopment Agency subsidizes the theater with a $415,000 annual management fee, but that agreement is set to expire in 2015. In August, City Council members cautioned the theater that it would soon have to be self-sufficient.

Since 2007, the Redevelopment Agency has spent $1 million on 16 projects at the theater, including sound upgrades, façade improvements and seat refurbishments, according to a city report.

In August, the agency allocated $3.9 million — $2.8 million of it earmarked since 2007 — for new dressing and meeting rooms, a loading dock and a subterranean floor in hopes of getting the theater ready for going solo in a few years.

More programming, including the Glendale Pops Orchestra, paid for 18.2% of overhead expenses during the year ending June 30. That plus a 10.6% jump in net rental revenue to $694,789 has helped the venue decrease its reliance on the redevelopment money by about $116,000, according to the report.

Without the redevelopment subsidy, the theater would have had a year-to-date operating loss of $386,403 compared to a loss of $419,305 last year, officials reported.

Although theater officials applauded the rebound, data shows that the fourth quarter of this year saw a 25% decrease in total theater activities — from performances to TV filming shoots — compared to the prior period, a reminder that “the economic environment is still unpredictable,” Barry McComb, chief executive of Glendale Arts, which runs the theater, wrote in a letter to the city.

The theater also saw a 37% drop in rental deposits and box office receipts at the end of the fourth quarter as the theater was closed to bookings in July and August to prepare for a stage refurbishment project, according to the city report. The project was postponed until 2012 due to construction delays and it was too late to restart late-summer bookings.

Theater officials had to dip into reserves to pay for the refurbishment, pushing the account down 14.3% to $230,111.

McComb said he expects the dip in bookings to slow the first quarter of fiscal year 2011-12, but film shoots by Comedy Central scheduled for this month and other events should give the venue a shot of revenue.

“We have a lot of activities to look forward to,” McComb said.

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