Sunday, March 11, 2007

Save the Akron Civic Theatre

As reported here over two weeks ago, the Akron Civic Theatre is in deep financial trouble. Today's ABJ gives the grim details. The place is expensive to run. It doesn't present acts that attract sell-out crowds. And even if it did, according to the article, it can't make a profit.

So why not tear the whole thing down and put up yet another parking lot? Who needs live entertainment in the 21st century anyway? We can Tivo and order up Netflix from the comfort of our Lazy Boy recliners. And if we tire of those options, there is always YouTube.

Let me be clear about it -- I am very willing to pay taxes to support this theatre. In fact, if the mayor wants my vote on his proposed tax increase, he needs to address what the city is going to do to save this theatre. It is a gorgeous historic venue and the last of the great old entertainment palaces that once adorned downtown Akron in the pre-televsion era. It has been completely upgraded backstage to accommodate touring shows.

One of the major problems with the Civic is heating it. Can the Civic turn Green? Lots of roof space for solar panels available -- or how about one of those new-fangled urban wind turbines? If one can be built in Bath, why not in downtown Akron? I like the idea put forth by Dave Lieberth:
"...the city has considered absorbing the Civic's steam bill from Akron Thermal as a way for the utility to pay down its $6 million debt to the city for unpaid water and sewer bills, rent and franchise fees, he said.
That would go a long way to making the Civic an affordable venue until something Greener can be put in place.

Meanwhile, I suggest making the Civic more available for local groups. Just like the schools are now to be community centers, let the taxpaying citizens of Akron use the Civic for a wider variety of events. We Akronites now must drive considerable distances to see concerts other than the Akron Symphony. When was the last time a major pop music group came to town? Even Cleveland is losing out to southern Ohio in terms of major concert tours. Perhaps the Civic could start looking for up and coming acts and book an evening or a weekend's worth of a particular format, such as indie rock or women's hip hop . We need creative thinking here.

Don't forget that the Civic has one of the few remaining large screens for movie viewing. I think movies have failed at the Civic because they have not been consistent about programming. Make classic movies a regular weekly feature and people will develop the habit of attending. If you only show a silent film with Wurlitzer accompaniment twice a year, chances are much greater that people will miss it. Foreign films, animation festivals, Oscar winning shorts -- these programming ideas work elsewhere and could work here.

The Civic at one time hosted many a great rock concert. I first saw the Kinks there in the early 70s, as well as Todd Rundgren and many more great artists. EJ Thomas gets all the big splashy musicals on tour, so the Civic needs to go in another direction with what it books. I'm hoping that with the split from the University, the Civic might be able to get back on its feet.

The picture above shows the Civic from canal level.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The reason why Cleveland is losing major acts is

1) Columbus is growing
2) Columbus is central
3) Cleveland is losing population
4) Since we have a depressed economy, people can't afford events.
Columbus becomes the lowest common denominator.