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Renton Civic Theatre Feels The Economic Squeeze

Theatre chose to maintain ticket prices despite rising costs, decreasing revenue.

Renton nonprofits are feeling the economic pinch, and is one of them, said Director Bill Huls.

But the Theatre has been lucky so far; not all arts-related nonprofits have been able to weather the rough economy.

Just more than a year ago, the Valley Community Players, which billed itself as “one of the oldest community theatre groups in South King County,” closed for good. Their office was in downtown Renton.

“After forty-six years of producing quality theatre for Renton and the surrounding area, it was a difficult decision that was made for a variety of reasons including the state of the local economy,” said a post on the Company’s blog on Sept. 2, 2010.

The economy continues to squeeze Renton Civic Theatre, and its patrons.

“Normally we have 780 season ticket holders, but right now we only have about 580,” he said. That loss amounts to approximately $30,000.

While season ticket sales don’t pay for the whole season, the Theatre relies on those sales to fund at least part of it, he said.

Historically, grants and donations cover the general operations of the venue; however, those are drying up, too.

“Grants are getting harder to find,” Huls said. “It’s the economy. There’s just less money out there.”

Donations are also drying up.

“Due to the economy people that used to give $100 are now giving $60,” he said.

Huls considered raising ticket prices, but decided against it because he wants to ensure that show prices remain affordable for everyone.

Current ticket prices are $22 for adults and $17 for students and seniors.

The Theatre last raised prices five years ago, and before that 10 years ago, he said.

The City’s Economic Development Department views the Theatre as a valuable feature of the downtown area.

“It’s a tremendous community asset that has character and history in Renton,” said Suzanne Dale Este, Renton’s economic development director. “.”

Renton Civic Theatre will host the FilmFrenzy screening on Monday, Oct. 24 from 7-9 p.m.

Although the City is making an effort to highlight the arts in Renton, Huls feels like the city could do more to support nonprofit performing arts.

In addition to renting out the space when not being used for shows, the Theatre is getting creative with its fundraising efforts.

Because of FilmFrenzy and a donation by one season ticket holder, the Theatre is working on a new venture to play old movies at the venue. Check back for more details on this project.

Huls is excited about the new , and is expected to be open sometime in 2013.

“We are finding it seems that people in Renton do not want to come to shows in downtown area,” Huls said, citing patrons’ feedback that the Theatre is in a ‘rough’ area. “.”

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