Downey Theatre rentals may get cheaper for non-profits

DOWNEY - Plans are moving forward to establish a formal application process for Downey-based non-profit groups wanting to rent out the Downey Theatre at discounted rates. Many details remain to be hashed out - chiefly the monetary size of the discounts - but early plans call for arts groups to submit financial aid applications during a two-week window every April.

After applicants are vetted by city staff, a Downey Theatre subcommittee currently comprised of councilmen Roger Brossmer and Alex Saab would decide how to disperse the financial aid, taking into consideration availability of funds and the financial needs of each applicant.

Financial aid will be given in the form of rental credit only.

The proposed plan does not apply to so-called legacy groups such as the Downey Rose Float Association, Downey Symphony or Downey Civic Light Opera, organizations that have operated in Downey for more than 40 years.

Those groups will receive pre-established rates that would save them thousands of dollars in rental fees compared to what they currently pay, officials said.

About two dozen people representing Downey-based arts organizations filled the library's Cormack Room Monday to hear details about the plan and offer their input. Most appeared satisfied - if not cautious - with the proposal, which requires ratification by the City Council.

Bill Hare, a Downey Symphony board member, said the proposal "sounds good." He praised VenueTech - the theater management company hired in 2010 to manage bookings and day-to-day operations of the Downey Theatre - for their handling of ticket sales for the symphony, an issue of contention with organizations long accustomed to selling their own tickets.

"It's worked out very well for us," Hare said. "We have no problem with the box office procedure. There was a learning curve, but it's been good for us."

Meanwhile, city officials said they had reached out to the Downey Civic Light Opera in hopes of convincing the organization to reconsider their plans to discontinue their programming but received no response.

"Why wouldn't we want them to continue? They're great," said Brossmer. "But it's hard for me to see that its current management wants to see it continue."

The DCLO owes the city $16,000 in back rental fees, not including storage costs, officials added.

DCLO executive producer Marsha Moode was in attendance Monday but did not comment.