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Donors spare Colony Theatre from imminent closure by answering plea for help

November 06, 2012|By Alene Tchekmedyian, alene@tchekmedyian@latimes.com
(Raul Roa/Staff…)

Burbank’s Colony Theatre will not be closing its curtains this season after roughly 200 supporters answered the company’s plea for help and pulled together $50,000 in donations, operators said Tuesday.

“It just flooded in — the checks and the letters and online donations,” said Artistic Director Barbara Beckley.

Pinned to a wall near the theater’s front entrance was a collection of handwritten and typed-up letters full of heartfelt comments and memories from theater-goers across the Southland.

“This incredible theatre must be saved,” one supporter wrote.

“I have great memories here, including meeting my husband,” another theater-goer penned on a yellow sticky note.

Less than two weeks ago, Beckley and Executive Director Trent Steelman announced to more than 6,000 supporters that the theater was facing dire economic straits — the two had wiped out their personal savings, maxed out their credit cards and even forgone their salaries for months to keep the theater open.

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Unless the theater raised $49,000 in two weeks, it would have to suspend its upcoming show, “The Morini Strad,” indefinitely, the company warned.

But after the strong outpouring of support, the show will go on, with the “The Morini Strad” scheduled to open Nov. 14.

The theater can also now cover performance costs and catch up on a $4,000-past due utility bill.

But the Colony isn’t completely in the clear. An additional $500,000 must be raised by the end of the year to continue operating.

The funds, Beckley said, will partly go toward funding marketing and development managers, who will write grant proposals and develop relationships with foundations and donors.

“A significant chunk of that will ensure our future,” she said.

Over the last two years, the theater has seen a steady decline in subscribers and single-ticket sales. In 2010, for the first time in the theater’s history, a production did not reach its single-ticket sales goal, Steelman said.

He had figured subsequent performances would make up for the shortage.

They didn’t.

In fact, he said, they “fell far short.”

“We were just never able to make up the ground that was lost,” Steelman said.

Since that 2010 show, single-ticket sales have plummeted by more than 20%, he said, which is especially bad for business since that’s the pool from which the theater generates new subscribers.

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