Redeveloping historic theaters and performing arts facilities to meet the needs of contemporary performing arts can pose particular challenges for arts and cultural planning efforts. Below, the following case studies examine successful redevelopment efforts in a variety of contexts. These case studies represent a variety of approaches to theatre redevelopment from shrinking capacity to expanding capacity and a variety of theatre management models.

Case Studies

Strand Theater; San Francisco, CA

One very instructive example is the recent renovation of the Strand Theater in San Francisco. The theater opened in 1917 with 725 seats. The theater went through a number of evolutions as it struggled to remain economically viable as entertainment preferences changed. In 2003 the theater closed and remained unused for about a decade. In 2015 the Strand reopened after an extensive renovation undertaken by the American Conservatory Theater (ACT).

The redevelopment program included a multi-purpose black box theater, a performance stage, educational space, and cafe. A few important principles can be derived from this successful reuse of the theatre. First, the presence of a theater nonprofit theater company appears to be critical for the stewardship and active use of the facility. Second, the renovation adapted the existing facilities to better suit modern needs. For example, the stage theater seating was reduced by more than half, from about 725 to about 285. Space not used for seating was devoted to new lobby, circulation, support and multi-purpose spaces. The addition of a second and independent performance space, a multi-purpose black box, also added to the versatility and functionality of the facilities. Lastly, the importance of visibility, engagement and interaction with the public at the street is clearly on display through the playful red painting of the building, the transparent windows of the front facade, and the large LED screen in the visible highly visible lobby, engaging the community.

The Strand Theater renovation cost $32.5 million and was funded by the ACT through a capital campaign that raised contributions from individuals, corporations, and private foundations. New Market Tax Credits and Historic Tax Credit reduced renovation costs by 1/3. The project was also assisted by below-market, flexible financing through the Northern California Community Loan Fund. It was also supported by the City as part of the Mayor?s Central Market Economic Strategy, providing grant funding and technical assistance around real estate development for arts organizations in the neighborhood. The ACT is eager to use the Strand as a place for new work, new audiences and new artists and established the New Strands Residency program as part of the New Strands Festival. The residency is supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Fund for New Works, Theatre Forward, and the Priscilla and Keith Geeslin New Strands Fund. The Residency is supported by a Building Demand Grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the New ACT Asian Startup Initiative.

The funding provided by two grants – one from the San Francisco Neighborhood Arts Collaborative and one from The Kenneth Rainin Foundation – helps cover the necessary facilities, maintenance, and staffing costs to enable ACT to offer no-cost rehearsal and performance space to partnering arts organizations. The facility is also available for rent to touring and local productions, private events and corporate meetings.

Gordon Square Theater; Cleveland, OH

It is also beneficial to examine the details of the closely comparable theater examples that are part of the district case studies described in the next section of this report. The first is the Gordon Square Theatre in the Gordon Square Arts District of Cleveland. The Gordon Square Theatre was built in 1911 as a vaudeville theatre. The Gordon Square Theatre was later operated as a movie theatre in the 1940?s. The building had a period of prolonged vacancy from the 1950?s to the 1900?s and was condemned by city authorities in Cleveland. In 1995, the Cleveland Public Theatre assumed ownership and control of the theatre. The Gordon Square Theatre has a seated capacity of 250 seats or a standing capacity of 350.

In renovating the theatre, the Cleveland Public Theatre joined with the Detroit-Shoreway Community Development Organization to renovate the theatre and find a creative manner to raise funds to get the theatre operational. This effort led to the creation of the Gordon Square Arts District and a joint capital campaign.

The theatre is available for rent, but availability is limited based on Cleveland Public Theatre?s production and rehearsal calendar. The theatre is partially renovated, includes a flexible main auditorium floor, staging rooms for catering and bar management. The theatre also includes a balcony and royalty boxes. It has been updated to be handicap accessible.

The Gordon Square Theatre benefits from acting as the home theatre of a theatre company. The theatre company becomes a built in steward and caretaker of the facility, but also is an effective way to increase use of the facility and build a robust calendar of events.

The following information about Cleveland Public Theatre is available on the Gordon Square website. Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) is a professional alternative theatre company and provides a home for new performance in the Northeast Ohio region. The company has been in operation since 1983 and has produced a range of performances including dance, theatre, and musicals. CPT?s mission is to raise consciousness and nurture compassion through groundbreaking performance and educational programs. CPT serves an important role in the community by offering a home for local producers, choreographers, and playwrights and is one of the few arts organizations that draws significant audiences from inner-city neighborhoods including youth, low-income families, and adults in transition.

Cabot Theatre; Beverly, MA

The Cabot Theatre, located in Beverly, Massachusetts, opened in 1920 as a palace of vaudeville and silent movies. The theatre opened with about 1,200 seats and includes about 800 seats today. It is a legacy of the visionary showmanship of the Ware Brothers. The theatre was designed by the architects Funk and Wilcox. For 40 years, it was the center of community life and entertainment in downtown Beverly. The theatre was purchased by movie chain E.M. Loews in 1960 and renamed the Cabot Cinema at that time. In 1976, the theatre was purchased by Le Grand David and operated as home to his own Spectacular Magic Company which operated from the theatre for 37 years. After Le Grand David stopped performing, the theater continued to show movies until it closed in the winter of 2012. This history distinguishes it from many other similar theaters, as it has mostly been in continuous operation as a theater venue. The Cabot was reopened in 2014 through the efforts of a small group of North Shore residents who founded a nonprofit organization, the Cabot Performing Arts Center.

Today, the theatre is a centerpiece of the Beverly Main Streets district and the Beverly Arts District (BAD) and offers a mix of film, music, and performances. The details of these districts are described as part of the district case studies described in the next section of this report. The Cabot Performing Arts Center has stewarded renovations that are planned in three phases, with the first phase of work completed. The total budget for the three phases of renovations is $5 million. The non-profit organization is supported, in part, by a fee that is applied to each event ticket with proceeds returning to maintenance and operation of the theatre.

The Cabot Theatre is not home to a theatre company, but instead relies on the leadership of the Cabot Performing Arts Center nonprofit to maintain a full calendar of events. The calendar of events includes first run movies on most weekdays with concerts and performances frequently on the weekends. The goal of the nonprofit is to provide the community with world-class live performances and films over 350+ days per year, in a friendly, historic, and collaborative environment.

Proctors Theatre; Schenectady, NY The Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, NY, is an example of a historic theatre brought back to life as a center of green energy and creative enterprise. Originally constructed in 1926, it was the site of the first public demonstration of television using GE technology at the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady. In 1977, the theatre was saved from demolition by a dedicated group of activists who formed the Arts Center and Theatre of Schenectady, Inc. to revive it. Since then, the building has undergone a series of restoration efforts and investments, including a $532,000 initial planning and rehabilitation effort to bring the building into a condition safe for occupancy. This investment resulted in installation of a new roof, boilers and a sprinkler system. Upgrades through the 1980s and 1990s included installation of a replica curtain to match the 1920s original, installation of replica marquees, bathroom redecorations, a hydraulic lift installed in the orchestra pit floor, a full roof replacement and installation of air conditioning.
In 2003, Proctors started a multi-year renovation and expansion project that totaled approximately $40 million. In addition to tripling their staging area to accommodate touring Broadway shows in its original 2700 seat theatre, the Theatre purchased an adjacent department store building and used the space to add a 400-seat theatre space, a new box office, as well as conference spaces, offices and a cafe. As part of this renovation, the theatre company established its own green power plant for heating and cooling that provides thermal energy to more than 25 businesses and organizations in downtown Schenectady. Its service area expanded with state funding in 2014, and in 2017 it will convert from steam to hot water as a primary energy source to achieve greater energy efficiency.
Proctors is currently building out the third floor of its complex into the Adeline ?Addy? Graham Theatrical Training and Innovation Center. This facility will feature a 100-seat theatre, multi-use classrooms, a media lab, and a flex-rehearsal space. The vision for the new facility is that it become the center of workforce development initiatives around creative sector occupations as well as a hub of after-school arts education for Schenectady youth. Its launch coincides with a new partnership between Proctors Theatre and the Workforce Development Institute on Producing Creative, a program to increase creative sector job awareness, hands-on experience for high school students and workforce development and apprenticeship programs for emerging professionals.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Texas Commission on the Arts Cultural Tourism Toolkit

This Toolkit provides an overview of cultural tourism basics; information on starting a cultural tourism program; steps for building a tourism message; ideas on how to tell your community’s story for tourism purposes; guidelines for developing different types of tours; sample letters and agendas for your tourism committee; a tourism assessment survey; sample tourism messages; community surveys; funding and information resources; and more.