Friday News Chum: Theatre, Market, and Skank Departures

A late lunch break today—I’ve been busy getting ready for ACSAC next week. But I’ve accumulated a few news items:

  • From the “Theatrical Departures” Department: The OC Register is reporting that the Fullerton Civic Light Opera will close in January. This is a loss for the entire Southern California Theatre community: The Fullerton CLO put on great regional shows, and continued the Civic Light Opera (an older code-phrase for “Musical Theatre”) tradtion started by organizations such as the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, now reduced to the travesty that is Broadway LA. This just leaves the South Bay CLO and the Downey CLO to carry on the tradition. Some may not care about this—after all, these are just theatre jobs—but who is to say that a job at the mall or a job in manufacturing is more or less important. This means the loss of numerous jobs that provided paychecks to families, both directly for Fullerton and for their technical and performing artists. We’ve seen other scares: the Pasadena Playhouse is slowly recovering, and the Rubicon in Ventura has been dealing with foreclosure threats to its playhouse. So what killed FCLO? The recession: specifically, a drop in subscription revenue by 20%, combined with a loss of rental income as high schools cut back their arts programs (these programs often rented sets and props from FCLO). These are things that could hit any theatre, making things especially scare. What can you do? Go see a show at your local live theatre.
  • From the “Market Departures” Department: Another sad closing to announce: HOWS markets are closing all locations except Pasadena. Again, we have a victim of the recession. HOWS was the successor to Hughes. After Hughes was sold to Ralphs, some of the Hughes family members started the HOWS chain. It was doing good for a while, with locations in Granada Hills, Pasadena, and Trancas Canyon… but in the last year, saw major problems. I do agree with the conclusion of the article: the store failed because it lost its personality. Those who went their originally went because of the Hughes personality. After that died way, it just couldn’t compete with the market majors (Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons), the upscale chains (Gelsons, Whole Foods), or the quirky chains (TJs or Fresh & Easy)… and it certainly couldn’t compete with the non-Union chains.
  • From the “Skank Departures” Department: Our last departure is a good one: The NY Times is reporting that the Times Square redevelopment is complete. Back in the 1970s, Times Square was a cesspool of pronshops and sleeze… and these days rent is up to $1,400/ft2. The number of tourists is up 74% since 1993, to an estimated 36.5 million last year, and attendance at Broadway shows has soared to nearly 12 million. The story of its revitalization is an interesting one… and one that owes quite a bit to the Disney Company and the New Amsterdam Theatre.