Grand Lake theater cuts budget, raises ticket prices to cope with seating reduction
February 15, 2009
As Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre’s Executive Director Carol Wolff and Managing Director Chad Scott concluded a 2009 theatre operating budget meeting in late November, they received a phone call from Grand Lake Town Manager Shane Hale.Mr. Hale informed them of a recent building inspection performed on the Grand Lake Community House, where RMRT has performed their summer stock season for approximately 20 years. The inspection concluded that the new occupancy for the theatre’s seating area is now 172, 20 seats less than in previous years.Ironically, Carol and Chad had just finished the budget equations for RMRT’s ticket revenue, which accounts for only 50 percent of RMRT’s budget. Using the new occupancy figures, the equation brought a $40,000 deficit to the 2009 operating budget. According to Scott Penson, Grand County’s chief building inspector, an inspection of the theatre area had not been performed in quite some time. The occupancy of a building is based upon the square footage of dwelling area. Since the last inspection (approximately 15 years ago), the theatre company had increased the thrust portion of the stage, building 31 feet of additional stage space in front of the proscenium. Since receiving the unfortunate news, RMRT’s Board of Trustees, artistic and executive staffs have been researching all alternatives in response to a $40,000 budget deficit.Every idea was entertained by the staff, said Chad Scott. Michael Querio (RMRT Artistic Director), Sally Scott (Company Manager and Youth Theatre Administrator), Jeff Duke (Artistic Associate), various members of the Board of Trustees, Carol and I had brainstorming sessions that left no stone unturned.The idea of cutting back the stage was briefly discussed, but Michael expressed concern for producing the upcoming musicals on the current stage space.There would be no way to cram 15 professional actors and 10 guest artists on a smaller stage and retain the quality of production that is expected, said Michael.Sally Scott agreed, citing the Youth Theatre Workshop’s challenge of placing 40 participants on the stage (and having parents actually see their children perform).At the January meeting, RMRT’s Board of Trustees approved the staff’s recommendations for a successful 2009 operating budget. First, staff members were instructed to execute multiple budget cuts. The next step was to replace the revenue lost by the 20 fewer seats, initiating three changes for the upcoming season. The cost of single tickets will be increased to $28, a three-dollar increase from previous years. The Board unanimously decided to keep the cost of children’s tickets (for ages 14 years and younger at $15. The cost of tickets for RMRT’s Youth Theatre Programs will also remain at $10 for adults and $8 for children.In past years, RMRT offered a 10 percent discount for individuals who purchased season tickets before the summer season. The theatre company can no longer offer this discount but continues to encourage people to purchase their tickets early, to secure their favorite seats. Over that past four years, the RMRT has turned away approximately 80 individuals per day, due to sold out performances. Now that there are fewer seats to sell, the staff predicts the turn away rate to reach well over 100 people per day. The final change will hopefully benefit the Town of Grand Lake as well as the theatre, said Carol Wolff. In 2009, RMRT will be adding an additional week of summer performances, six additional shows. We hope that summer will last just a bit longer for everyone, including area merchants and business owners. This will also increase RMRT’s fall season by one weekend, again attracting tourists through the month of September. The loss of additional seating only increases RMRT’s need for a new theatre space. The Raise the Curtain! – A New Stage for RMRT capital campaign to construct a new 300-seat theatre on the corner of Grand Avenue and Vine Street in Grand Lake is still moving forward.Despite recent setbacks due to the nationwide economic climate, the Board of Trustees and staff continue the pre-construction design phase and fundraising efforts. Benchmark Enterprises, a construction management firm, has been retained by RMRT to fine tune design and construction details and assist in building a facility that can meet the needs of our performers and patrons in the most effective and cost-efficient manner. While much work still lies ahead and we still need the continued moral and financial support of sponsors and patrons to meet our objective, we ask all of our RMRT family to join us in sharing our excitement in taking this major step.The Staff and Board of Trustees, aware that ‘every single dollar counts’, is suggesting that RMRT patrons consider rounding their ticket purchase amount up to an even $30, the additional $2 going directly to the Raise the Curtain capital campaign to build a new theatre in Grand Lake. Tickets for RMRT’s 2009 theatrical season will go on sale March 2, beginning at 8 .m. Patrons are encouraged to call (970) 627-3421 throughout the day. Chad Scott is flying back to Grand Lake just to assist Carol Wolff on this incredibly busy day. Tickets for RMRT’s popular Cabaret & All That Jazz (scheduled for July 26) and the C Lazy U Benefit Dinner (June 6) will also be on sale that day. Visit http://www.RockyMountainRep.com for more information.