'New era' at Downey Theatre off to a rough start

DOWNEY - Hoping to promote the arts and position the Downey Theatre as a possible contender for popular acts and artists in the future, H & E Entertainment hosted a live comedy show last Friday featuring several nationally-recognized comics.But after dismal ticket sales and lackluster support from the community, the Downey-based entertainment group is revamping its strategy, canceling its remaining shows and questioning Downey's reception to arts and culture programs and events. "The show was fantastic - three hours long…the rat pack of comedy had everyone in stitches. People were laughing like crazy," said Gary Head, 57, vice-president of H & E Entertainment. "They all did a fantastic job, everybody liked the show, but the attendance was not what we expected…it was a loss for the company." Head said despite the more than 350 tickets that were either sold or given out, only 205 people attended the family-friendly comedy show, which featured comedians Lamont Bonman, Jimmy Burns and Gilbert Esquivel, ventriloquist act Willie Brown and Woody, impressionist Scott Wood and actor/comedian Mark Christopher Lawrence, who currently stars in NBC's 'Chuck.' H & E Entertainment hoped the Jan.21 show would serve as the kickoff to a new beginning for the dated, 738-seat Downey Theatre, now operated by theatre management company VenueTech, but Head maintains the attendance was scarce at best. "It's difficult not to see people supporting it. You hear about all the people who wanted to support the arts in Downey - they didn't show up," Head said sharply. "We brought a first-class show here and the theatre was a quarter filled. The tickets were not high priced…my phone was ringing off the hook last week, we were expecting a large crowd." According to H & E Entertainment's website, the three remaining shows, including a gospel concert, an oldies show, and magic showcase, have all been tentatively cancelled. Head said the company especially needs time to revamp before utilizing the Downey Theatre again. "We want to reevaluate what we're doing, which direction we're going to go," he said. "VenueTech was perfect, we had no problems. The comics had fun - they want to do it again. I don't want to come down hard on the city of Downey, but the support wasn't there. We're looking at venues in Long Beach and Los Angeles for comedy shows. "The people that want the arts in Downey, didn't show up," he said. "It takes time, people are afraid of new things, but if they want arts stuff - they have to lend their support."

********** Published: January 27, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 41