If we open a theater will it fix our downtown?
Unfortunately, it takes much more than opening a theater (or other
anchor project) to bring life back to a sagging downtown. A
theater can be an excellent magnet to bring people to the downtown,
but the downtown must have addressed the problems that caused the
decline in order to have a successful revitalization. We have
seen many cases where a magnificent "anchor building" was created to
draw people downtown, only to see the project fail a year later
because the downtown hadn't fixed its underlying problems.
We have a Performing Arts Center which is used to host traveling
shows ranging from concerts to plays, why do we need another
The key to any revitalization is to develop an overall plan
for the revitalization of the downtown. In creating the plan,
it is important to study the downtown area to understand what caused
the decline and survey area residents to determine why they aren't
visiting the downtown and learn what would bring them back to
downtown. Once there is an understanding of the challenges
that face the downtown, a plan can be created that addresses each
Creating the plan is usually easier than implementing it as
often there are many organizations involved, ranging from business
owners to local government to various state agencies such as the
highway department and economic development office. Getting
all of these organizations together to agree on a plan is often
difficult, especially when the plan calls for these organizations to
spend money on improvements. Funding, of course, is the
biggest challenge as infrastructure projects such as roadway
changes, sidewalk repair and parking arrangements can run into the
millions of dollars.
If the plan has properly addressed the downtown's challenges,
a suitable anchor project has been chosen, and all of the
organizations follow through on their commitments, a downtown should
see a successful revitalization.
A Performing Arts Center
with traveling shows is a great starting place, however a permanent,
local theater offers many benefits that a Performing Arts Center
doesn't. Consider the following -
We want to fix our downtown, will you help us?
PAC's usually don't have performances every day
of the week and often are only in use 50% of the time or less. In
order for businesses around a PAC to thrive, they need a reliable
daily flow of customers. We support projects that are expected to operate at
least 6 days a week bringing a steady flow of visitors to the area.
A traveling show doesn't substantially contribute to
the local economy or tax base. While the performers will stay
in local hotels and eat meals, the scenery, costumes, and props are
built somewhere else. The performers are paid in the tour's
home city and they pay income tax in their home state.
Productions that are created locally, with locally obtained materials
directly benefit the local economy.
Local staff and performers will be paying local taxes on their income.
A traveling show doesn't make an investment in the
community it visits. Traveling shows rarely visit schools or
give educational presentations. As a resident of the
community, part of a local theater's mission is to stimulate the arts, providing
education and experiences for all. Projects we support have an
Education and Outreach department whose sole purpose is to bring the
Performing Arts into the community by visiting schools, presenting
workshops, and providing internship and learning opportunities.
We receive countless requests for assistance each year and each one
is evaluated on a case by case basis to determine where the
community is in the process, if there are buildings suitable for
use as a theater, and if there is strong support in the community for
a revitalization effort. We prefer to work with communities
that are within 500 miles of either Washington, DC or New York City
(our "hubs"), although we have consulted on projects as far west as
Texas. Our services are provided by volunteers and are funded
by the generous donations of our supporters and unfortunately, we
don't have the resources to provide assistance to every community
that requests it. At this time we have a "full plate" and are
not adding new projects.
How much does it cost to convert a building into theater?
It is impossible to estimate a cost as there
are a tremendous number of variables. One of the primary
variables is the cost of obtaining a suitable space and converting
it for theatrical use. The costs will also depend on the final
plan and nature of the theater. We have seen projects range
from elaborate rehabilitations with multi-million dollar budgets, to
conversions of former restaurants costing under $50,000.