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After 83 Years, Alex Theatre is Still an Economic Engine

The Alex Theatre is arguably Glendale’s oldest major attraction. Built in 1925, the theatre is not only a historic hub for arts and culture in the community, but it also makes a considerable economic impact on the city. Elissa Glickman, director of marketing and resource development for The Alex, said that, until recently, just how much revenue the theatre brings in has been anecdotal. But over the last two seasons, the theatre conducted an audience research study to get a better idea of the economic impact it makes on the city. They found that more than 40 percent of its patrons had also patronized neighboring establishments during their trips to The Alex. “That’s a significant economic impact, considering that the theatre welcomes more than 100,000 people per year,” Glickman said. Philip Lanzafame, Glendale’s director of Development Services, agrees. “Arts and culture venues are economic engines,” he said. “When there’s a show, the businesses know what the schedule is, so they can plan for it. There’s a leveraging effect. [Alex patrons] are going for an ice cream, a drink afterwards, for after-theatre activity.” <!– Frida: Restaurant is designed to capitalize on nightlife scene. –> Frida: Restaurant is designed to capitalize on nightlife scene. Though he didn’t provide actual sales figures, Michael Morgan, manager of Far Niente Ristorante at 204 N. Brand Blvd., said that, without question, the eatery gets an economic boost from the theatre located at 216 N. Brand. “It would depend on the show that’s booked, but there’s some that contribute significantly to our business,” Morgan said. “We are the direct benefactors from the Alex Theatre. It’s definitely a boost to our business. The shows that really impact us are the symphony, the Gay Men’s Chorus, and any of the special dance shows and the classic movie series.” Under the leadership of executive director Barry McComb, The Alex has amplified the economic impact it makes on Glendale by changing its business operations model. This entailed making the theatre available for events that are not performance related. The Alex is booked about 260 days a year, but about 20 percent of those bookings are not theatrical in nature, according to Glickman. A variety of organizations and businesses have utilized the theatre: Nestl & #233; USA, for example, has rented the theatre for business functions for the past seven or eight years, Glickman said. Part of its appeal lies in the fact that The Alex is one of the last surviving theatres in the region, Glickman believes, but that’s not all. “It’s a combination of things,” she said. “We have a really good reputation. We have a full-time crew. We have administrative staff. And from sheer word of mouth other people come to us. We’ve been fortunate that ours is such [an establishment] that people want to work with The Alex. Our house is flexible enough that we can accommodate a variety of different shows.” The City of Glendale certainly recognizes the significance of the theatre, which it renovated extensively in 1993. “There’s a lot of examples of communities using historic venues like The Alex as their centerpiece,” Glickman said. “It’s not an unprecedented or unheard of business model.” The city’s investment in the theatre has apparently paid off. The Alex has been in the black for the past couple of years. “Since the current executive director Barry Mc Comb took over that has not been the case,” Glickman said. “He’s been able to create a balanced budget.” McComb has been on board of The Alex since 2001. While he’s been praised for setting the theatre on a new path, the city does its part by spending about $5 more per person on arts and culture than the national average. Part of that is likely due to Glendale’s proximity to the country’s entertainment capital. Lanzafame explained why the city so strongly supports the arts. “Part of our mission is to create cultural venues,” he said. “When you’re looking at the whole picture for quality of life, you want good housing Another should be arts and culture. The Alex Theatre is almost an icon for arts and culture throughout all of Glendale. It’s a regional rallying point for all of the arts, whether that be independent theatre, galleries or student showcases. It provides a venue for a lot of things.” Now that The Americana at Brand has launched, The Alex expects to do even more business. “I think ultimately it’s going to be bringing new people into the region, and, because we’re such a focal point on the boulevard, The Alex will catch their eye,” Glickman said of the theatre, which has a lighted marquee. Promoters affiliated with The Americana have already contacted the theatre to express interest in renting out the venue. So, in short, “The Americana is ultimately a win for The Alex Theatre,” Glickman said.

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