State College

State Theatre in budget trouble, gives thanks for support from State College Borough Council

The State Theatre’s new executive director delivered what he called “sobering news” Monday to Borough Council on the struggling nonprofit’s finances.

Greg Ray, who was recently promoted in a shake-up attributed to financial woes, told council the organization had a net loss of $352,000 last year.

But there may be a silver lining, Ray said. The theater ended the first quarter of its current financial year in the black.

“It’s the first time this has happened in quite a long time,” he said.

Ray went before council Monday to follow through on a request made around budget time, when the borough upped its contribution to the theater.

Council approved a final budget that gave the nonprofit $10,000, up from $2,000 that was originally planned. As a condition, council asked that someone from the theater attend a meeting and discuss operations.

“It’s not a secret the State has struggled to find a business model that works,” Ray said Monday. “Our affinity for the arts has clouded our business judgment.”

The State Theatre, originally a 1938 cinema, reopened in 2006 as a nonprofit community arts center after a complete renovation.

In recent years, its leadership has focused on turning the theater into a hub for Centre County’s arts community, continuing to book national music acts but scaling back the number of concerts in favor of more local music, dance and drama groups.

Board President Lisa Peters has previously said she doesn’t foresee drastic changes to the theater’s programming mix.

Ray hinted at change Monday, but said theater officials would first listen to the public about what they want in the facility.

“We’ve been mainly concerned about making great art,” he said. “But really one of my big focuses is to turn our attention outward. We are listening now. What would you like to see in your community arts center?”

Ray was previously the theater’s lighting designer and programming manager, booking national touring acts.

“We’ve fallen off the bike several times,” he said. “I’ve been there for most of those and I know what to avoid. What we are looking for is to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.”

Ray said he is optimistic that the theater can obtain solid financial footing, but told council its continued support would be a vital part of future success.

“You really provide breathing room to help right the ship,” he said.

Council, for its part, expressed desire to continue the support.

“I think we all share the interest in the success of the State Theatre,” said Councilwoman Cathy Dauler.

Theater officials have previously said they will beef up fundraising and will be more present in the community.

“A lot of people’s hopes and dreams are wrapped up in the State Theatre,” Ray said.