“We’re on the verge of doing well.”
This was the description of the current position of the State Theatre, according to Executive Director Greg Ray, who spoke to the Brough Council Monday.
The theater was in “a very difficult place,” Ray said, with rumors of bankruptcy within its own ranks. But he was happy to say no one was using the B-word anymore.
While numbers are still being crunched, he said, the theater is looking at a modest profit for the end of its fiscal year. This was good news for the organization, especially on the heels of major operation changes.
“We focused on our accounts payable,” he said, “which, when I came to you before, had just come under the high water mark of $350,000.”
The organization worked hard, he said, managing finances and paying off what it could. Thanks to vendors who were willing to work with them and through generous contributions, he said the theater is just under half of that figure now.
“In 2015, we would really like to close the books on accounts payable,” he said. “I can’t stress this enough.”
The organization is still facing challenges, Ray said. Long-term debt from renovations remains the largest hurdle. Right now theater officials are looking at immediate vendor debt and doing their best to honor the commitments to what is “possible and reasonable for us.”
“I’m happy to report the community, especially a lot of vendors have stepped up,” he said, “and allowed us to work on payment plans or forgiven debt whenever possible and it’s made a huge difference in the operations of the theater.”
The theater is also working to rebuild its staff, he said, and provide better customer service.
A part-time grant writer is pursuing educational grants, he said, which could fund special educational programming, like a music or theater summer camp.
The other big challenge is maintenance, Ray said. With a building dating back to 1938, some of the work is inherent in the building itself. Work is being done on the emergency lighting system — a huge bill, he said, but essential to operations and the safety of the community. Outdated sound and lighting equipment is being replaced as well.
One of the biggest problems the theater faces is its HVAC system, he said. The theater will face a $50,000 HVAC redo this summer when its compressor will need to be replaced, an event he said he has been assured will happen. Replacement may also require a serious operation, such as a roof-mounted crane.
The theater has not let programming take a hit in the process of reorganizing, he said. Local and national music and dance acts are still showcased, as well as films and cartoons.
Councilman Peter Morris asked if the sale of liquor and beer, a request by the theater that was controversial at the time, has been as much as expected.
Ray said the biggest difference those sales make is seeing shows that are marginally successful become profitable. Alcohol can maybe make up about 10 to 20 percent of the profit of a given show, he said.
“What it really means is, if done right and done carefully, we can provide more of a variety of programming,” he said.