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Long-Term Management of Madrid Theatre Uncertain

By VANESSA HERMAN Staff Reporter The long-term management of the Madrid Theatre in Canoga Park, which has been run by the Valley Cultural Center, is uncertain as the VCC’s contract expires on June 30. A one-year extension of the non-profit arts organization’s contract is underway. Whether the VCC will re-submit to gain a new contract is still up in the air, VCC officials said. “I don’t know,” Jim Kinsey III, VCC CEO and president, said. “That will be up to the board of directors to analyze and see if it is in our best interest.” As the operator of the Madrid Theatre, the VCC has been responsible for building the operating budget and booking the shows that the theatre runs. The VCC also sponsors events such as the Concerts in the Park at Warner Center Park. The VCC’s original theater contract with the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, which oversees the venue, was for three years with options for two one-year extensions. According to Sharon Sandow, chief of staff for L.A. Councilman Dennis Zine, an extension was approved to cover the VCC’s contractual obligations because a number of organizations had already booked the theatre for dates within the next year. It will be during this one-year period that a request for proposals will be sent out to determine which organization will continue to manage the theatre. Cultural Affairs will review submissions for the contract to see if the organizations qualify and how the groups plan to operate the theatre. From that review, Cultural Affairs will determine which group should be awarded the contract. During that time, the Madrid will stay open and continue to be operated by the VCC until Cultural Affairs has decided which group will continue to manage the theatre. Cultural Affairs will make sure that the theatre will stay operational, officials said. “No one wants the theatre to sit dark,” said Kinsey. Originally operated by the Cultural Affairs Department, that agency issued a contract three years ago to the VCC to manage the 450-seat theatre. When the Madrid opened in 1998 under the operation of the city, it struggled, leaving many of the nights in the theatre dark. Raymond Beccaria, administrative division director for L.A. Cultural Affairs, said, “There was a desire to have a private entity take over. The basic desire was there was a feeling it could be more active, in terms of bookings. The VCC turned the theatre around. According to Kinsey, the theatre has gone from an operating budget of $439,000 when the city ran it, to $800,000 under the VCC. The VCC has built its budget from grants, rentals, and productions. The VCC started off with just $100,000 from its contract with Cultural Affairs. In addition to revenues gained from bookings, the VCC received a grant from the California Community Foundation and sponsorship from Fidelity Investments. VCC will usually offer lower rates to certain non-profit community groups and while last year, the VCC fell short $50,000 of the Madrid’s operating costs, Kinsey said it is traditionally very difficult for theatres under 1,000 seats to turn a profit. “We’re very happy that the theatre is six times as busy as it was previously,” he said. Michael S. Turner, Chairman of the board for the VCC said, “Since we’ve run the theatre, we’ve had the theatre occupied 275 days of the year, which is as much as you can rent the venue. We’ve had everything in there from dance to film programs to children’s music programs.” According to Kinsey, two groups have made up 70 percent of the theatre’s bookings: Golden Performing Arts Center and Valley Performing Arts Center West. The Madrid Theatre, originally an adult movie house, was redeveloped after it was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency oversaw the development with a $3.3 million federal grant raised by the city. “It’s the biggest theatre on the smallest lot in the country,” said Leslie Lambert, CRA Regional Administrator in Canoga Park. The site is approximately 50 ft. by 150 ft., according to Lambert.

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