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Alex Theatre task force to tackle venue's financial woes

Team will study fundraising, operations and income opportunities for the historic theater.

July 10, 2012|By Mark Kellam, mark.kellam@latimes.com
  • Glendale Arts board members and residents plan to form a task force to deal with the loss of state funding for the Alex Theatre.
Glendale Arts board members and residents plan to form… (Roger Wilson / Staff…)

The nonprofit that manages the Alex Theatre plans to form a task force in the coming months to deal with the impending loss of more than $400,000 a year from the city of Glendale — the result of the state slashing redevelopment powers and possibly taking ownership of the historic venue.

The task force will be made up of Glendale Arts board members, staff members and local residents, said Elissa Glickman, who after serving as interim chief executive of the nonprofit that runs the Alex Theatre, was recently given the permanent job.

At the first-ever “State of the Alex” presentation to board members on Tuesday, Glickman said the task force will study three areas — fundraising potential, income opportunities, such as rental rates, and operations, including staff costs — and then make recommendations, Glickman said.

“We're different from many nonprofit organizations in that we don't rely as heavily on contributed income as we do on earned income,” Glickman said. “This model has served us well during the downturn in the economy, but we know that for our own growth and sustainability, we really do need to increase our contributed income channels.”

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Among that earned income is a $415,000 annual “fee” the city pays to Glendale Arts to manage the Alex Theatre. Those funds, which make up 18% of the organization's budget, are used for theater staff and maintenance, Glickman said. That contract will expire in 2015 and stands little chance of being extended given the city's loss of redevelopment revenue.

In addition to that expected revenue loss, the theater is reeling from a rough year, having been rented just 153 days — far short of its 250-day goal.

One reason for the shortfall was that the theater was closed from July to September for a planned expansion project that never materialized because officials anticipated the elimination of redevelopment agencies in February, said Maria Sahakian, marketing and events director for Glendale Arts.

Last year, the City Council transferred the theater from the redevelopment agency to the city's own books in an effort to protect it from potentially being transferred as an asset to the state, but it's unclear if the California Department of Finance will approve the move.

The theater's uncertain future is also making it challenging to rent, Sahakian said.

Glendale Arts plans to rebound from its lackluster year in a variety of ways, Glickman said, including a beefed-up campaign to bring in more contributors, particularly ones that will give larger sums of money.

“We know that fundraising has never been this organization's strongest suit,” she said, adding that this past year featured one of the most successful fundraising campaigns in several years, notching $40,000 in cash and in-kind donations.

In the coming year, Glendale Arts plans to hold several small fundraisers out in the community, Glickman said.

Another growing revenue stream should be the organization's box-office service for other theaters and organizations in exchange for a small per-ticket fee.

The theater also plans to offer more customized pricing options for potential renters, Sahakian said.

“We want to fill dates that would otherwise remain dark,” she added.

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