Couple of big announcements from local theaters late last week and this morning:
Lyric Opera San Diego, the musical theater company that owns the Birch North Park Theatre, announced Friday it plans to file for bankruptcy.
And The Old Globe announced today its CEO, Lou Spisto, will leave at the end of the year after nine years at the helm.
The Lyric Opera news comes after more than a year of financial struggle as the company tried to find a buyer for its building, the refurbished Birch North Park Theatre that it bought in 2006.
A hefty mortgage payment combined with inadequate ticket sales and low donations led to the company’s self-described “cash crisis” last year.
The situation apparently worsened, pushing the theater to lay off two-thirds of its staff before announcing this plan to reorganize its finances, according to the Union-Tribune’s Nathan Max.
The company was carrying a $4 million mortgage on the building and had turned down two offers recently while it held out for a $5 million offer. More on the Lyric Opera announcement, from the U-T:
The theater quickly turned into something of an albatross for Lyric Opera, which paid $12.5 million for it.
Almost 71 percent of the price was paid with redevelopment funds and through donations, but that still left Lyric Opera with a hefty mortgage. Payments to service the mortgage were once as high as $22,000 a month, but fell to $11,500 a month in 2010 after Lyric Opera refinanced.
The theater’s been credited as a chief catalyst for other redevelopment in North Park.
And more on the timing of Spisto’s departure, from the U-T’s Jim Hebert:
The theater found itself uncomfortably in the spotlight two months ago when it was reported that the would-be star of its revival of “Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show” had pleaded guilty in 2008 to two misdemeanors involving sexual encounters with a teen-age girl seven years earlier. Amid the resulting publicity, both the actor and the show’s director eventually were replaced. Spisto said that situation was unrelated to his decision to leave, which he said he had been considering since last year.
What do you want to know about these unfolding stories or other hurdles in the local theater scene? Drop me a line below and I’ll work to find out the answers.
I’m Kelly Bennett, the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at email@example.com or 619.325.0531.
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