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Burbank Leader

Colony Theatre pitches 5-year plan, but much hinges on the now

By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com

1:21 PM PST, January 16, 2013

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Managers of Burbank’s Colony Theatre say they still hope to eek by and then some after managing to pull together $50,000 in donations to keep the company going.

Creative Director Barbara Beckley said the theater’s latest production, “The Morini Strad,” which closed Sunday, was the company’s biggest hit in almost three years, taking in nearly $40,000 in single ticket sales.

Still, according to the company’s annual report to the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission last week, attendance for the year dropped significantly for the first time since it moved to Burbank 12 years ago.

The city leases the Burbank Center Stage facility to the theater company.

Attendance for 2012 was at roughly 17,000, although the theater had hoped to draw 27,000 people.

Beckley said the troupe was hoping its next production, “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight,” would reverse the trend, calling it an exciting thriller that has been put on to much success around the country, but never before in Los Angeles.

The stakes are high.

Trent Steelman, Colony’s executive director, told commissioners that the theater would have to sell out every show of “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight,” which opens Feb. 9, in order to fund the following two shows.

Looming over the theater, meanwhile, is the need to raise another $100,000 or more to finish the season.

“Our absolute goal is to make it to the end of the season, because we owe it to our subscribers,” Beckley said in an interview. “We will get there by hook or by crook.”

The theater is still hoping to raise around $500,000 continue operations after this season and create an endowment to sustain itself, but the outlook if it can’t raise that money isn’t good, she added.

“We might need to go dark for a while and concentrate on outside rentals while we continue to do our fundraising, but closing our doors permanently is not an option on the table,” Beckley said.

The theater’s current season has one more play after “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight,” the musical “Falling For Make Believe.”

In an effort to save money last year, the theater cut its shows from five- to four-week runs, which meant it fell behind its goal of 150 public performances and landed instead at 130 instead, said Beckley.

Along with cutting two staffers and reducing work hours for the remaining employees, Steelman said the company reduced its operating budget by 23% in 2012.

“We are really bare bones minimum right now,” he said. “Our biggest expense each month is our utilities bill."

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