A bold, new step for Downey Theatre

DOWNEY - VenueTech, the management company hired by the city of Downey last year to take over operations of the Downey Theatre, has released a tentative list of concerts and performances contracted to play in Downey.The four bookings represent different musical and theatrical genres, purposely done to appeal to a wide range of audiences, officials said. The lineup includes a performance by folk rock band America (Nov. 5); a holiday concert by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (Dec. 2); an intimate performance by David Hidalgo and Louie Perez of Los Lobos (Jan. 21, 2012); and three performances of "Defending the Caveman" (March 9-10, 2012). The America concert is a benefit show done in conjunction with the Downey Chamber of Commerce and part of the proceeds will go to Easter Seals. VenueTech announced the shows Monday on the Downey Theatre's Facebook page and in the city's Community Services guide mailed to residents this week. City officials expressed confidence in the concert schedule. "Coming out of the box we knew it was important to hit a home run," said Mayor Pro Tem Roger Brossmer, who sits on a theater subcommittee with Councilman David Gafin. "We just had to broaden the field. The DCLO [Downey Civic Light Opera] is great, the symphony is great, but it doesn't appeal to everyone." More shows are expected to be announced later this year. VenueTech was awarded an operating contract last November worth up to $400,000 annually, about the same amount of money the city was already losing by running the theater on its own. VenueTech spent much of this year completing renovations at the theater, installing a new box office and negotiating bookings. A new Downey Theatre website is expected to debut as early as this weekend. Also new is the Marquee Club rewards program; for $25, members receive preferred seating, advance notification of shows, invitations to exclusive reception events, and other perks. Meanwhile, the DCLO, Downey Symphony and Downey Unified School District, the theater's primary tenants, were not made to change or cancel shows, city officials said. Andrew Wahlquist, founder of the Downey Arts Coalition, said his organization is in talks with VenueTech on future collaborations, including the possibility of transforming an upstairs rehearsal room into a 99-seat stage for intimate shows and galleries. "We're kind of like in the idea/asking questions stage," Wahlquist said. Whether the Downey Theatre can ever become a self-sustaining operation remains to be seen. Efforts are currently underway to establish a 501(c) foundation that council members say could eventually offset city subsidies. It's also unknown if the Downey Theatre will hurt or benefit from the plethora of regional theaters in Southern California. But for now city officials said the theater, and VenueTech, are off to a good start. "Everyone gave us excuses why we couldn't do this, then we hire this company and have four big shows," said Brossmer. "I'm hoping the theater can become like the [Columbia Memorial] Space Center and become more of a regional draw. If we're able to get this theater optimized and get it so it really appeals to residents, that would be a huge win." In addition to the Downey Theatre, VenueTech operates six other community theaters, most located in Northern California.

********** Published: August 18, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 18