Organizers Say Lerner Theatre on Track to Success

March 15, 2012

The Lerner Theatre has been open since June, and so far, it�s exceeding expectations. But it is a work in progress.

When asked about projections for 2012, general manager David Smith said that with only nine months of experience behind him, he could only speculate as to their future success.

�From a projections standpoint, I can confidently say that our current booking pace exceeds our expectations,� he said.

Former Lerner project manager Jack Cittadine said he thinks the space has been utilized much more than he originally anticipated. But he also expects that it will take another year to work out all the kinks.

�I�ve always said it will take two years to figure out how to run the theater,� he said.

Cittadine said that he thinks the Lerner�s events have also helped downtown restaurants, especially on slower weekday nights. He hopes their success inspires other small businesses to come and invest in downtown Elkhart.

�It�s become a focal point for the downtown, which is exactly what we hoped it would do,� he said.

The Lerner Theatre Board discussed changing some rates of their facilities at Wednesday�s monthly meeting, but made no final decisions. They gave Gary Boyn, president of the Lerner Theatre Board, final approval for the proposed changes as well as an event contract for promoters.

Before the meeting, Boyn said that when the Lerner Theatre opened, there was an understanding that they would reevaluate rates within six to 12 months.

Some of the proposed changes will include increasing rates for staging equipment. Currently stage manager rates go for $22/hour for not-for-profit events and $23 for miscellaneous and commercial events. The proposed changes would bump them up to $26 for not-for-profit and $27 for the others.

�The staff looked at it and decided we were being very, very generous,� Boyn said.

Boyn, in his second term as president of the Lerner Theatre Board, said he does not think that increased rates will have any impact on ticket prices for the public. The only area that could affect them is if someone wants to have a wedding at the Lerner.

The theater has hosted more than 200 events between its grand opening and the end of 2011, according to Smith. Those include about 60 events in the theater itself and about 150 in the Crystal Ballroom.

�We have a better understanding of what our needs are (now) and how we need to position and protect the Lerner contractually,� Smith said.

Some of those upcoming events include Willie Nelson on April 13 and an Elvis impersonator, Shawn Klush, on April 27.

Premier Arts artistic director Craig Gibson said everyone he�s talked to has said they feel the venue is more akin to something they could find in Chicago or another big city.

�It�s the same response from every demographic, �I can�t believe I�m in Elkhart,�� he said.

The Lerner Theatre opened in mid-June after two years and $18 millionof renovation. For information on the theater go to www.thelerner.com or call 293-4469.

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