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Alex Theatre forecourt plan curtailed

Renovations called urgent because of pending expiration of redevelopment subsidies.

March 07, 2011|By Bill Kisliuk, bill.kisliuk@latimes.com

State fire codes may throw a wrench into plans to use the outdoor forecourt at the Alex Theatre to host events and generate more revenue.

Theater officials want to remodel the courtyard with glass doors where wrought-iron gates now stand, potted cypress trees paralleling the Doric columns and new paving as part of a plan to use the space to host events in addition to programs within the theater.

But project planners ran into a host of obstacles, including word from building and fire inspectors that the courtyard always must be available as an exit corridor.

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A proposed shade canopy also raised structural problems and would have hampered film production companies that use of the courtyard for red-carpet scenes, said Barry McComb, chief executive of Glendale Arts, which operates the venue.

And a proposal to replace courtyard concession stands with temporary carts was nixed because of the difficulty of storing the carts when they are not in use.

During a hearing on the matter at the Redevelopment Agency, which owns the venue and which partially subsidizes the theater’s operations, Glendale City Atty. Scott Howard said his office would try to address the legal obstacles to using the courtyard.

“We need to produce revenue from this theater,” Councilman Frank Quintero said. “This is the perfect setting for corporate use, nonprofit use.”

Architects and planners have been working on the issues to no avail, McComb said.

There is a sense of urgency behind the renovations as Glendale Arts attempts to generate more revenue ahead of 2015, when redevelopment agency subsidies are set to expire.

One priority is to build more dressing rooms and a VIP reception area, McComb said, which could capture revenue lost from the jeopardized courtyard rentals.

“The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra is a long-term tenant, but the one thing that has always been problematic for them is that there is no place to take their donors to provide them with a special VIP experience,” McComb said. “If we could create an area for that, that gives them a reason to keep coming here.”

He also said those improvements would enhance the prospect of working on film festivals with the five-screen Laemmle movie theater that is tentatively planned for the lot next door.

McComb said the change of direction is prudent.

“The initial goal of the project was to fix the forecourt from a cosmetic standpoint. It is showing its age,” he said. “We have limited dollars to work with, and my job is to make sure we are going to spend those dollars in the most cost-effective way.”

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