Weekly Blog by Nina Crowe, Incoming CEO
In 2008, the City of Glendale had the foresight to transform the Alex Regional Theatre Board into the nonprofit Glendale Arts in order to meet the needs of the community and serve the Alex Theatre in the best possible way.
Our mission since day one: serve the varying needs of both nonprofit and commercial clientele as a full-service operator of the Alex. For 13 years, Glendale Arts has successfully navigated the competitive L.A. theatre market, elevating the Art & Entertainment District of this wonderful city.
We do this as a nonprofit entity. What exactly does that mean in dollars and cents? Even though Glendale Arts is a nonprofit, we are also a business. Similar to a for-profit business, we provide services to customers in exchange for fees. However, we differ from our for-profit counterparts in that we invest our revenue back into the organization in service of our mission.
And while there may be a shift toward focusing on a nonprofit’s impact and effectiveness, it is our hope that more people become aware that operating a charity is not free. It costs something to deliver a mission. And our team is a group of top-notch, talented people who are worth investing in!
So why do we withstand the challenges nonprofits face? Hands down, Glendale Arts is comprised of some of the most devoted and committed people – dedicated to the mission with an unyielding passion for our city’s arts and culture. Our employees are business savvy researchers, technicians, managers, marketers, fundraisers, and executives. This is why, for example, the health and retirement benefits we contribute to are so important. Each and every staff person adds to the success of the organization and as a small business it’s important that we continue to attract and keep the best employees. (For more information on how we operate, visit our FAQ below from my previous blog dated July 20.)
So, while our expertise keeps operations going, we can’t do it alone. Our success requires a partnership from the city; investments from theatre-goers, donors, preservationists, and sponsors; and commitments from promoters and clients. When these moving parts work together, our social fabric is strengthened, creating deeper community bonds.
This coming week is a BIG ONE as we work on our next proposal for the Alex Theatre’s management contract. We anticipate the city will make its final decision on or before August 17. We’re in discussions with City staff and the lines of communication are open.
We’re not done yet! If you’d like to help, or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re grateful for all the support and continued encouragement. Your actions and funding make all the difference not just for us, but for our beautiful city too.
Glendale Arts FAQ
After the June 29, 2021 City Council meeting regarding contract negotiations, we determined it was important to address some misconceptions about Glendale Arts (GA).
As always, if you have any questions or simply want to talk about Glendale Arts or the Alex, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
What exactly does GA do?
We are a not-for-profit, full-service operator dedicated to managing, preserving, and programming the Alex Theatre, led by industry professionals and supported by a dedicated board of directors. GA also produces community events such as Taste Walk Glendale, with all proceeds from these programs benefiting operations and the Alex Theatre.
We employ, at the peak of the season, 16 full-time and up to 50 part-time staff members who are stage technicians, house managers, custodians, security guards, box office ticket agents, and administrative staff.
The cumulative experience of our full-time staff specifically at the Alex exceeds the 95-year lifespan of the theatre. We do not outsource the services that we provide.
GA prides itself on being a rare type of organization: one that strikes a balance between expertly serving the varying needs of both nonprofit and commercial clientele, successfully navigating the competitive LA theatre market.
Does Glendale Arts get paid a management fee or a subsidy from the City for the Alex?
GA does not receive any subsidies from the City. We are paid a management fee by the City of Glendale to operate the Alex.
A subsidy is a grant, investment, or gift. The fees negotiated in our contracts with the City are payment for services provided to manage the Alex Theatre.
What exactly does this management fee pay for?
A portion of the fee pays for the experienced craftspeople responsible for maintaining and preserving the historic building.
It also pays for repairs and upgrades, which are significantly costlier in a historic theatre than in buildings constructed more recently. This extends down to the smallest bits of work, such as the effort to replace incandescent light bulbs with LEDs.
The management fee is NOT a programming fund. It provides us with the means to take care of the building and find new ways to animate it and connect with the community.
Without a management fee, the Alex’s value as a treasured city asset would decline.
If the management fee doesn’t pay for programming, how does programming get paid for?
Glendale Arts operates the Alex Theatre as a rental facility. Around 80-85% of our annual revenue, on average, is earned through rent and other fees associated with booking the venue.
Presenting organizations such as our six resident companies – Alex Film Society, Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, Glendale Youth Orchestra, Los Angeles Ballet, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Musical Theatre Guild – along with dozens of other clients who call the Alex home, book the theatre for their performances and events over an annual average of 200+ days each season. Glendale Arts has also positioned the Alex as a popular location for film and TV shoots, another significant source of earned income for the Alex Theatre.
The remaining 15-20% is generated through fundraising.
How much has the City of Glendale paid to GA for managing The Alex (per terms of a Lease & Management agreement)?
From fiscal years 2008 to 2021, GA has earned a management fee from the City for approximately $352,000 per year on average, totaling $4.585M over 13 years.
To break that down further:
For fiscal years 2009 – 2014, the Glendale Redevelopment Agency (GRA)* provided $415,000 per year or $2.49M total. The GRA, a legal and public entity, separate from the City with its own powers and budget, committed funding to the Alex through tax revenue.
Starting in fiscal year 2015, the GA Management Fee has been paid through General Funds, totaling $2.095M or approx $299,000 per year. To reiterate, the management fee is used to support safety, maintenance, and the preservation of the Theatre, not programming.
*GRA – Redevelopment Agencies were created in California through legislation in 1945 with funding from property taxes to promote the redevelopment of blighted areas. Glendale projects focused on reducing crime, restoring historic features and structures, and creating new landscaping, housing and business opportunities. Redevelopment funds have supported the creation, renovation, and/or maintenance of Glendale sites such as The Americana at Brand, public libraries, fire and police stations, and the Alex Theatre, to name a few. The management fee was paid to Glendale Arts through the GRA commencing with the City’s purchase of the Alex Theatre in 1992) and remained through 2014. Redevelopment Agencies were dissolved across the state by Governor Brown in 2012.
For instance, the Theatre’s $6.5M 6,600 square foot backstage expansion in 2014 was paid for through the GRA. Successor Agency funds had long been set aside for an Alex Theatre expansion, and would have reverted back to the state if it was not used for the Alex. Coming off the heels of the 2008 Great Recession, it was a difficult decision to take the Theatre offline for performances. But knowing that we needed to use the funds or lose them altogether made the project more timely. Because the GRA paid for the project, Glendale Arts did not receive funds for the expansion. We managed the project closely with the City-selected and City-paid architect and construction company, and the $6.5M never passed through our hands.
As a City-owned building, the City is responsible for items such as roof repairs, and in these cases, they typically pay the vendor directly.
Why does GA have to fundraise?
As a nonprofit organization, Glendale Arts fundraises through individual giving, hosting community events, and pursuing grants so the Alex Theatre remains historically appropriate, technologically modern, structurally sound, and aesthetically pleasing. In fact, although the trend in total giving to arts and culture nonprofits went down 4% in 2019 (per Giving USA), donations made to Glendale Arts increased 130%.
Our fundraising success is attributed to the dedication of individuals, foundations, and companies who believe, like we do, in the power of the arts. Individuals help build bridges across generations; sponsors foster creativity; and foundations preserve culture. Together we contribute to the rich and diverse history of the Alex Theatre, ensuring it remains front and center of arts and culture for the years to come.
How do public events at the Alex help local businesses?
Per the Arts & Economic Prosperity Report, a person spends an average of $16.39 in addition to the price of the ticket when attending an arts event in Glendale. This is money spent at a restaurant for dinner or pre-show dinner or after-show dessert, parking, shopping or payment to the babysitter. With an average of 80,000 tickets sold per year, Alex programming by Glendale Arts brings in a whopping $1.3M to small local businesses and the City annually.
In addition, many of those dollars are “respent” and create a second ring of economic impact, such as the server using tips earned from concertgoers to pay for a meal or parking.
But isn’t that offset by the subsidies for Resident Companies?
No. In 2019, Glendale Arts provided approximately $84,000 in subsidies to the six Resident Companies of the Alex, helping them to keep the rent low, hire and pay artists, and keep ticket prices low so the Resident Companies can maximize profits (i.e. raise more money).
The $84,000 subsidy investment by GA in programming by Resident Companies generated over $288,000 in economic activity for Glendale – almost a 300% ROI.
Those performances also brought in over 17,000 people and generated $573,000 in ticket revenue. (Note: performance groups pay GA rental fees to book the Alex, and then those groups retain revenue from ticket sales).
What are some examples of the programming GA has done for the Alex?
Glendale Arts has elevated the Alex into one of LA’s most popular venues and has expanded the Theatre’s offerings to include a wide-ranging mix of programming that appeals to the diverse demographics and interests of local Glendale residents and regional audiences alike.
Performing Arts & Entertainment
On any given night, the Alex Theatre stage comes to life with music, theatre, comedy, film, dance, and cultural performances featuring internationally-acclaimed superstars and A-list talent to emerging acts and youth performers.
GA is proud to be the home of six nonprofit Resident Companies – Alex Film Society, Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, Glendale Youth Orchestra, Los Angeles Ballet, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Musical Theatre Guild.
Popular, high-caliber artists and notable figures we’ve hosted include:
– Members of the Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Pilots, The Beach Boys, REM, and The Doors
– Robin Williams, Yanni, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Burt Bacharach, Sheryl Crow, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, and Bonnie Raitt
– Celebrities, authors, politicians, business and thought leaders such as Bob Iger, Steve Martin, Mindy Kaling, Patti Smith, Senator Bernie Sanders in conversation with Sarah Silverman, Eric Bogosian, John Cleese, Eric Idle, and Chelsea Handler in on-stage conversations presented by the likes of Live Talks Los Angeles and Los Angeles Times Events.
Glendale is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the state of California. GA’s programming at the Alex reflects that. Armenian, Latin, and Filipino talent, among many others, regularly perform at the Alex, inspiring cultural pride as they entertain their audiences.
– These performers include Latin Grammy Award-winning artists such as Pimpinela, Rosario, and Gianmarco; world-renowned musical icon Djivan Gasparyan, whose 2019 appearance at the Alex was his last in the U.S. before his recent passing.
– One of the world’s most popular children’s entertainers, Raffi.
– Locally based Taline & Friends, whose Christmas show at the Alex is an annual tradition for young Armenian children and their parents.
Film & TV Shoots
Chances are you’ve seen the Alex on television. Perhaps you’ve been in the audience for a TV taping at the Alex. The Theatre’s stunning architectural features and GA’s knowledgeable and welcoming team have made the Alex a favorite for locations professionals and producers.
The Alex has been featured on all major networks and streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, Showtime, Comedy Central, NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox. Just a few of the notable productions filmed at the Alex include:
– TV/Streamed Shows – Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David and Lin-Manuel Miranda (HBO), David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction featuring Ellen Degeneres and Kim Kardashian (Netflix), Glee (Fox), Criminal Minds (CBS), CSI (CBS)
– Comedy Specials – Kevin Smith (Showtime), Ronny Chieng (Netflix/Live Nation), Jo Koy (Comedy Central/Live Nation), Brad Williams (Showtime)
– Competition Series and Specials – Last Comic Standing (NBC); Bring the Funny with Kenan Thompson, Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Jeff Foxworthy (NBC); A Pentatonix Christmas Special (NBC); A Home for the Holidays with Idina Menzel (CBS); American Idol (Fox)
Stay tuned for more updates from us with release dates for some exciting projects filmed at the Alex, such as The Nowhere Inn, an independent film starring St. Vincent and Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney, Portlandia).
The Alex is also the perfect size and space for a variety of special events.
Hosting thousands of students from throughout Southern California each year on both sides of the curtain – as performers on stage, as audience members attending a school field trip like Shakespearience, or as graduates accepting their diplomas.
Home venue for other local nonprofits to host fundraisers and receptions in our outdoor forecourt, one of only a handful that exist in L.A.
The Alex is a go-to for corporate meetings for major companies based in the city, including Disney, DreamWorks, and New York Life.
Awards shows such as the Location Managers Guild International Awards, and whose winners have been recognized for their work at the Alex; and SAG-AFTRA members watch the SAG Awards at their official L.A. screening live from the Alex each year.
What is an example of the renovations needed to preserve the Alex as a historical structure?
From the time it opened its doors in 1925, the Alex Theatre has stood proudly as the cultural epicenter of the City of Glendale. Through changing times, the Alex has transcended its beginnings as a mere vaudeville house and has stood proudly as a symbol for the city.
In 2015, the Alex Theatre celebrated its 90th birthday. Glendale Arts has always strived to contribute to this phenomenal community by ensuring that the Alex remains more than just a beloved landmark, but a destination for all to experience the arts and live entertainment.
And so, to celebrate the birthday, we created The Illuminate Project which aimed to fully restore the Theatre’s marquee, 100-foot-tall Art Deco neon tower and starburst which were in complete disrepair. Through tremendous community support, Glendale Arts invested more than $75,000 in the project, relighting the tower at a special celebration on September 4, 2015. Accolades were received from the City Council and other elected officials for the tremendous undertaking.
The community’s response was so inspiring, that Glendale Arts decided to host an annual fundraising event called The Illuminate Dinner where proceeds support the ongoing maintenance and preservation of the marquee and spire and to ensure its lights continue to illuminate the Glendale skyline. On average, Glendale Arts spends $15,000 per year on the maintenance of the neon tower.
In recognition of the project in 2015, Glendale Arts received the following awards:
- 2017 Theatre of the Year Award presented by the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation
- 2017 Preservation Award presented by The Glendale Historical Society
- 2017 Beautiﬁcation of the Year Award presented by the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce
What sets Glendale Arts apart from the other potential operators?
Glendale Arts is a full-service management company and a nonprofit entity.
Nonprofit is a curious word that carries a few misinterpretations with its use. The most common may be that a nonprofit cannot earn a profit. Even though Glendale Arts is a nonprofit, we are also a business. Similar to a for-profit business, we provide services to customers in exchange for fees. However, we differ from our for-profit counterparts in that we invest our revenue back into the organization in service of our mission.
The competing companies bidding for the next Lease & Management contract from the City of Glendale, which includes management and programming of the Alex Theatre, are for-profit companies.
Why is a non-profit organization better suited to operate the Alex Theatre?
It is a curious fact that a majority of arts organizations are nonprofits. It’s probably because arts and culture programming provides education, human services, and a multitude of other community benefits. In 2008, the City of Glendale had the foresight to transform the Alex Regional Theatre Board into the nonprofit Glendale Arts in order to meet the needs of the community and serve the Alex Theatre in the best possible way.
As mentioned above, the money we make gets invested back into the organization benefiting the communities we serve on both sides of the curtain.
This leads to another misconception: that a nonprofit’s effectiveness should be measured by its low overhead costs. While there is a shift toward focusing on a nonprofit’s impact and effectiveness, it is our hope that more people become aware that operating a charity is not free. It costs something to deliver a mission. And our team is a group of top-notch, talented people.
Conventional wisdom might suggest that Glendale Arts would be less likely to provide our staff with employment benefits. Truth be told, like other nonprofits, the wages we pay are based on some historical and societal norms. Our employees are business-savvy researchers, technicians, managers, marketers, fundraisers, and executives. This is why the health and retirement benefits we contribute to are so important. Each and every staff person contributes to the success of the organization, and as a small business, it’s important that we continue to attract and keep the best employees. We all know they are hard to find and contributing to Employer health and retirement benefits are essential to this end.
The word nonprofit is a tax designation, and it happens to provide a myriad of benefits not available to a for-profit company or its investors. For example, Glendale Arts can apply for grants, like the $821,960 recovery funding we just received. Our donors are able to receive a tax benefit for their financial support as well.
We hope this helps to clarify how Glendale Arts operates and manages the Alex. Again, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.