Curtain falls on Theatre in the Square
by Jon Gillooly
jgillooly@mdjonline.com
March 19, 2012 07:26 PM | 8190 views | 50 50 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The poster window on the front of Theatre in the Square sits empty Monday afternoon. Mike Russell, chairman of the Theatre's board, announced Monday that the theater would be declining the City Council's $30,000 contribution and shutting its doors. <br> Photo by John Roach
view slideshow (2 images)
MARIETTA — After 30 years in downtown Marietta, the financially strapped Theatre in the Square abruptly closed its doors Monday.

The play “Flyin’ West” was supposed to have another performance tonight, but early Monday evening, the stark image on the Marietta Square told the story: The theater’s marquee was bare and the poster windows were empty, a storied venue for the arts in the Atlanta metro area had gone dark.

“We ran out of cash,” said Mike Russell, who chairs the theater’s board of directors. “There will not be a performance going forward.”

Russell and Palmer Wells, the theater’s cofounder and producer, had been sounding the alarm about the theater’s financial problems for months.

Mayor Steve Tumlin, who had led the effort recently to revive the theater financially, said when he learned Monday morning that the theater’s board might turn out the lights, he called Dave Reardon and Tom Browning, who serve with Tumlin on the Downtown Marietta Development Authority. Tumlin said he proposed giving the theater $30,000 to $50,000 during an emergency DMDA meeting in addition to the $30,000 grant the city gave the theater last week.

“So Reardon and I and Tom were going to present it to the board with three votes in hand to give them a Spring and Summer grant,” Tumlin said. “Then I called Mike Russell. I said, ‘Mike, ask your board if $30,000 or $40,000 would help them.’ He said, ‘No.’”

Russell said the theater’s board made the decision to close Monday afternoon after three days of deliberation. The board had raised $83,000 of the $400,000 needed to operate over the next three months and pay down vendor debt. But the board didn’t see how it could raise that amount or bring in additional funds required to launch a 31st season. Russell said the board has begun staff layoffs and had paid its lease through March 31.

Russell said he wasn’t sure what would become of all the theater’s materials, since the board is putting together an exit strategy over the next two weeks.

The fundraising work proved too daunting, Tumlin said.

“Not only would they have to raise $400,000 this year, as soon as they raise that $400,000, then their reward is they have to go out and raise $450,000 more for next year,” Tumlin said.

Last week, the City Council granted the theater $30,000 to help keep operations running, but Tumlin said Monday the theater board had returned the check to his office.

The theater board had taken steps to make ends meet, such as renegotiating the theater’s 30-year lease with landlord Councilman Philip Goldstein down to five years and reducing the monthly rent from $10,778 to $7,000.

Last week, Goldstein said the theater owed him about $126,000 in back rent and other expenses.

The loss of Theatre in the Square’s patrons would be noticeable on the downtown economy, Goldstein said Monday evening.

“In the near term, it’s obviously going to have an impact,” Goldstein said. “They bring a lot of people to the Square each year … It’s very disappointing to see that things haven’t worked out so far like we thought they would.”

The theater has an annual economic impact of more than $1 million, with 49,073 patrons visiting the Square for plays last year, Russell has said.

“Personally, I’m devastated because I thought their plan was starting to fall into place,” Tumlin said. “Their board, when they got against the wall, worked as hard as they could, but the numbers were just against them.”

The theater was in the middle of a production of “Flyin’ West,” which was set to run until April 8. They are working on a plan to give ticket holders the chance to use their tickets at other venues, Russell said.
Comments
(50)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
DeepThroat
|
March 20, 2012
Thank you. Your comment will be displayed as soon as it receives editorial approval.

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Curtain falls on Theatre in the Square
Greg Kaiser
|
March 20, 2012
I have to add my agreement to the previous comments concerning the recent remodeling of the theater. Hideous does not even begin to describe what they did to that building. They took a wonderful little landmark on Marietta Square and turned it into a white plastic-looking abomination, complete with flashing marquee and giant tragedy and comedy masks looming overhead. It now stands out like a sore thumb on the Square, and now that it is going to sit empty, it will be even worse.

My wife and I are former season ticket holders at Theater in the Square who have not been back in quite some time. In part, this is due to the fact that we have kids now and have less time for live theater. But it is also because the programming in recent seasons has been unappealing for the most part- not much incentive to pay a baby sitter and spend our money there.

I agree with others here who say that, to me, the fault rests primarily with the leadership of this organization. Who are the board members who thought this renovation was a good idea? Who is the artistic director who lost sight of his market? Why did the theater go through with this costly architectural disaster when they certainly knew that economic ruin was close at hand?

I'm sorry for the actors and directors who poured their heart and soul into that Theater for so many years. They did good work, and it is a shame that such a great little venue will no longer be there for them, or for us. But I just can't ignore the little voice in my head that says that this all could have been avoided, had the leadership at Theater in the Square been much, much stronger.

Opportunity Knox
|
March 20, 2012
Theater In The Square shut down? The old folks' homes will be looking for some places to go on field trips! I say convert the place to a high pressure sales pyramid scheme and when the clueless codgers show up for their season tickets, sign them up and rob them blind!
S'Marcuss
|
March 20, 2012
I went up the Square tonight and all the 1990s cars were absent. What happened?
anonymously
|
March 20, 2012
And just think, Tumlin wanted to try and give them another 50g's!! Incredible!!
Deep Throat
|
March 20, 2012
I hope the board gets nailed to the wall on this one...if they do infact have a $400 short fall well...they need to come up with it...

but i'm almost sure that the board and the MDJ will surpress such notiions!!!!!!!!!!!

Deep Throat
|
March 20, 2012
what a shame we are losing this cultural treasure in Cobb Co.

Oh and BTW all remarks on this "post" are censored by the MDJ...and that doesn't just mean profanity....its pretty much anything they don't want you to say...even if it pertains to the article at hand...

I love Yall.. you wiley MDJ censors..."Freedom of the press"???...but not the freedom the web yall embrace?

Just a thought....
|
March 20, 2012
Someone better watch Phil.....I smell bulldozers firing up to create another illegal empty lot.
The Theater in the
|
March 20, 2012
Square Swansong was the best “Staged” performance they’ve ever produced…. Bravo to their Board!!
Deep Throat
|
March 20, 2012
neat how your comment hass lasted 5 hours at the top of the lead????????????????
what the
|
March 20, 2012
These spaces should be occupied by something Cobb Countians could understand! How about a "Museum of Conservatism". It could feature the anti-gay resolutions that got the county kicked out of the Olympics, Gordon Wysongs "Sacred Art of Russia" tee shirts, school text books with evolution disclaimer stickers, It could contain a collection of Newt Gingrich's marriage certificates, Ten Commandment monuments removed from government buildings and a life sized statue of Ronald Reagan. The possibllities are endless.
too bad
|
March 20, 2012
Well that's too bad. Not that I ever went to a show there. I thought about it several times. Would it work for an artist's venue like Eddie's Attic - I know he is involved in one in Duluth now; would great to have something on the West side.
donnanunn
|
March 20, 2012
I think there is a great theatre right across the street that is doing great...hmmmmmmmm
marietta man
|
March 20, 2012
Who let them put up that hideous front on the building? they didnt get my business after that. It has no business being there destroying the integrity and history of the square.
I Say
|
March 20, 2012
I, too, wondered about that front on the building. I thought there was some kind of historical architectural reqirement for buildings around the square. I liked the "1940's Radio Hour" at Christmas. Saw it on the Main Stage. Then saw it on the Alley Stage which was awful and decided I'd not go back until it was back on the Main Stage. Then they closed the show. When I heard it was coming back last Christmas I really wanted to go see it if it was on the Main Stage. The I learned it wasn't even going to be on the premisis, but instead at Southern Tech. So didn't go. Part of the enjoyment was walking around the Square before and after the play.
Old Vet
|
March 20, 2012
. . . and the sun will come up in the East tomorrow morning.
truth hurts
|
March 20, 2012
Well I'm just glad the Marietta sheeple approved a multimillion dollar theatre at MHS! Theatre is so incredibly popular you know.
TIC
|
March 20, 2012
Looks like an opportunity for a different, more financially responsible live theatre group to come in and make a go of it.

This was a management problem not a market problem.

It also, according to many of the comments I have seen in this venue, had to do with the type of productions that were dominating the theatre's schedule.

Instead of more traditional, locally acceptable subject matter, many of the productions dealt with edgy and somewhat controversial social issues that suited the desires of the owners but not the customers. That might work just fine in Little Five Points, Virginia Highland or Midtown, just not in Marietta.

Know your market!!

It's fine to be creative and thought provoking, but not at the expense of financial viability.

That's just dumb!!!

So

The landlord is now stuck with a building that is specifically designed for one type of use. A live theatre venue. It's not like he can plop another retail use down in that space.

Maybe a reasonable base rent and a "percentage" lease would work?

The Strand is fine, but the Square could use another live theatre operation. It's called economic synergy. Maybe the DMDA and the city should consider a "recruiting" campaign.
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
|
March 20, 2012
I know, what about another Gone With The Wind Museum? LOL!
What the!?
|
March 20, 2012
I've lived in Marietta many years.

I've patronized literally every shop on the Square multiple times with the exception me pulling the trigger on a Brumby rocking chair.

I've been to each legitimate museum down there but I've avoided the GWTW one though.

I've eaten at every single venue down there.

I've attended every festival we have and visit the Farmer's market when the mood strikes.

Not once though have I gone to the Theater on the Square.

It isn't because I am not a patron of the arts. I've attended plays and musicals and concerts countless times while I have lived in Marietta.

In Atlanta.

The Theater on the Square is akin to an old single-screen movie theater. If what you want to see isn't playing there, you're gonna head to the next town over.

The local pool of patrons is too small and the productions haven't been noteworthy enough to draw in crowds that have many choices.

GRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!
|
March 21, 2012
"Not once have I gone to Theatre ON the Square"

then how can you possibly pretend to judge the quality of productions there? I have attended every professional theatre in the Atlanta area, and can assure you that the production quality and talent was superb. T'Square was more than once recognized as "The best of Atlanta" by AJC, Creative Loafing.

Sure they could have seriously re-evaluated some of their play choices. Too bad they will not get the chance to do that.

Pool of patrons to small??? the Sanders Family shows were still packing them in after 20 years.

This is a sad, sad day for Marietta. And for the staff who have lost their jobs at Theatre IN the Square.

Too bad you did not bother to support your local theatre by attending even ONE show.
Bill Clements
|
March 20, 2012
Great entertainment but lousy management lead to the failure - bring in a business manager with authority and leave the the acting to the actors and the Theatre has a chance of survival. Where Phillip fits is a mystery ?
Be somebody
|
March 20, 2012
Well, I guess Marietta High doesn't need to build that auditorium anymore. Just use the Theatre On the Square.

Win-Win
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides