Marketing concerns loom over VenueTech vote Tuesday

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DOWNEY — City Council will vote at their meeting on Tuesday to approve a three-year extension to the existing agreement with VenueTech Management Group, Incorporated, who has presided over management of the Downey Civic Theatre since late 2010.

The cost of the contract totals to an estimated $205,000 annually with reimbursable costs, including labor and in-house production and in-house production expenses at approximately $686,233. However, the actual contract cost of theatre labor depends on number of rentals and are reimbursed by the rental client.

While VenueTech manages and services the theatre, it is the City that provides directive and oversees VenuTech’s management.

Unfortunately, there seems to be some concern amongst officials that Theatre’s marketing is falling below where the city would like it to be.

“Our theatre is a beautiful theatre first of all,” said Mayor Pro Tem Rick Rodriguez. “I think it’s just undermarketed. It’s used quite a bit, its just the story isn’t told enough. That’s the problem; it’s not publicized enough.”

Rodriguez went on to say that he feels that the city is not “putting it’s best sales foot forward” enough.

To supplement some of these concerns, Rodriguez has slowly but intently introduced accomplished singer and artistic director Chad Berlinghieri into the community over the last several months.

“I met Chad outside the city of Downey. He does a phenomenal job in Orange County, in Long Beach, in Signal Hill, the beach areas,” said Rodriguez. “I wanted to bring that talent into our city because he brings his followers, associates, colleagues to us as well.”

“I recently attended a play over at the Mark Taper Theatre over in Downtown Los Angeles; it’s a small 300-seat theatre, but they had a beautiful play…every seat was taken. You wonder how’s a little theatre like that - with terrible parking, with Downtown traffic, that’s hard to get to – how do they draw people from the Valley? How do they draw people from Downey? From Long Beach, from Whittier…it’s all because of the sales efforts.”

A Theatre sub-committee was formed in 2009. The sub committee meets regularly and reviews types of shows, financial aid requests, and other Theatre business. It is currently served on by Councilmembers Alex Saab and Blanca Pacheco.

Council wishes to make the theatre a regional draw, however there are a few hurdles that the city has struggled with, including the theatre’s size and the amount of local competition.

“That’s one of the challenges we’ve had over the years to draw certain performances is the size and also the geographical location,” said Saab. “We are close to these other larger theatres that can sell more seats and thus draw bigger performances.

Councilmember Saab was able to shed a little light on the options that the sub-committee were currently exploring, and what ultimately may be the center of discussion on Tuesday.

“We’re looking to increase the marketing, looking a little bit closer how we can draw a bigger crowd, and the third thing we’re looking at is to increase some more local talent and theatre production through maybe some nonprofits or theatrical groups that can hopefully be able to use the space.”

Saab added that this could include the usage of the stage as a 90-seat space for more interactive and intimate performances.

“I think there’s definitely a lot of room for us to look at different types of use,” said Saab. “Those are the things we’re looking at.”

Another potential option that may be raised Tuesday is the opportunity to put Downey’s Theatre Series out to bid and potentially partnering with an outside entity to put on those performances.

“In years past, VenueTech has been deciding those productions and they’ve put them on,” said Saab. “That’s what we’re going to look at: VenueTech will continue to manage it, but whether we’re going to bring in an outside entity to assist us in putting on those events.”