Unclassified Info: It's do or die for the Alex Theatre

I had the opportunity to sit down with Elissa Glickman, the newly appointed chief executive of the nonprofit that runs the Alex Theatre.

Even though we are friends via social media, I had not seen Glickman since I left the Alex Regional Theatre (ART) Board in 2004. I served on the committee that interviewed and hired her to be director of marketing and resource development, so news of her promotion was a happy occasion, as it reinforced what we saw in her some eight years ago.

It was an interesting meeting for a couple of reasons, our differing perspectives on the recent demise of redevelopment agencies statewide being one such reason. I have been critical of redevelopment agencies for transacting in a number of questionable real estate and financial decisions that by many accounts seem to favor wealthy developers more than the people they are supposed to serve.

Unfortunately, the death of redevelopment agencies also took its toll on venues like the Alex Theatre that relied heavily on redevelopment revenues to operate. If there was a way to keep this portion of redevelopment money flowing and just shut the faucets off that fund mini malls, I’d be supportive. As it is, the venue stands to lose $415,000 in funds beginning in 2015. That amount represents 18% of the annual budget.

It was this fact that made me want to reach out to Glickman after she expressed a desire to elaborate on her “big picture” ideas to help the Alex survive the looming financial hit and move into the future with a proactive strategic plan.

According to the “2011-12 State of the Organization” presented by Glickman last week, contributed income, primarily in the form of fundraising and grants, only accounts for 5% of the budget.

In order to build revenues, Glickman has put an aggressive marketing plan in place that is focusing its attention on branding and promoting the capabilities of Glendale Arts, the nonprofit that manages the theater.

From a strategic point of view, it would make sense that strengthening the foundation and credibility of Glendale Arts would provide a more stable base for the Alex Theatre.

But even if marketing and other efforts are successful, Glickman is fully aware of the fact that fundraisers aren’t going to get the money needed and they must explore other types of contributed income. In truth, the majority of cash flow comes from rentals and programming.

“It’s do or die, with 2015 around the corner,” Glickman told me.

As I continued asking questions about programming and other income opportunities, my mind hung on the previous statement of fact. Glickman’s comment wasn’t delivered with a sense of doom, but rather in a way that resembled a call-to-arms.

The way I see it, we can all sit back and hope Glickman and company can find a way to overcome the deficit that will occur in 2015 when the redevelopment money dries up. Or we can start thinking about ways we can turn the Alex Theatre into something even better.

This is our “lemons into lemonade” moment.

I’ve spent years wondering how the Alex could put itself in a position to attract a wider variety of musical acts, including more indie bands. But I haven’t done much about it. Until now.

I’ve begun to look for areas of opportunity with the Alex in mind because it is just too good a venue to wither without a fight. So here’s a rallying cry of my own.

Let’s all start putting some brain power toward the Alex Theatre. A city like Glendale, with so many people connected to various aspects of the entertainment industry, must have connections to people or things that can make a solid contribution to the growth and prosperity of one of our most valuable civic assets.

I’m turning over the proverbial rocks. I think you should do the same.

With redevelopment funds most likely going away, we have a couple of choices: watch the ship sink, or collectively take steps to create the outcome we want.

Glickman seems willing to fight. I’d like to help.

Selfishly and optimistically speaking, I’d like to see bands like Green Day and the Black Keys play at the Alex. What is it that you would like?

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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