Lyric likes deal offered by Marietta
by Jon Gillooly
March 23, 2013 12:37 AM | 3501 views | 6 6 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA – A proposal made by Mayor Steve Tumlin on Friday could mean the Atlanta Lyric Theatre, the resident musical theater company for the 531-seat Earl Smith Strand Theatre, may not leave the Strand after all.

Tumlin and Tom Browning, chairman of the Downtown Marietta Development Authority, proposed that the city and the development authority sponsor five musical shows that the Lyric intends to produce this season.

The city would send that sponsorship money to the Friends of the Strand, the nonprofit that governs the multi-use performing arts and events facility. That money would in turn allow the Strand to reduce the Lyric’s rental payments and keep the theater company on the Square in downtown Marietta.

Brandt Blocker, the Lyric’s artistic director and general manager, said his board agreed to accept the mayor’s proposal. Tumlin said the Marietta City Council, the development authority and the Strand must also approve the deal.

“Of course it goes without saying that we are completely grateful to Mayor Tumlin for working diligently to get this done,” Blocker said. “His efforts with the city of Marietta and, of course, the Downtown Marietta Development Authority, we appreciate their consideration of the matter. I know they still have to vote on it. This confirms that our position has always been that we wanted to be at the Strand, and so this is a very positive way, I believe, to make that happen. Hopefully the Strand will agree to that, and we can give everybody, I think, what they want, which is to continue professional musical excellence at the Strand.”

Tumlin called a lunch meeting on Friday in the mayor’s office after the Lyric issued a press release saying that it was planning to vacate the Strand due to financial difficulties.

At that luncheon were Browning, Blocker, and Friends of the Strand board chairman Bob Ash, among others. Over sandwiches from Tommy’s Sandwich Shop, Tumlin and Browning made the offer.

The parties agreed to return Wednesday to decide whether to accept the agreement.

Ash said the Strand’s board would carefully consider the proposal.

“Obviously we appreciate the city’s interest, particularly the mayor’s in helping with the negotiations and certainly appreciate the potential contribution on that,” Ash said. “We appreciate it, and we’re taking it into consideration, as is the Lyric Group, and we’ll get back together and see where we are on things.”

Tumlin said he was not releasing the amount of money involved in the proposed sponsorship for fear that it would cause the negotiations to break down. He did say, however, that the city offered $10,000 and $20,000 promotions to the Theatre in the Square some years ago.

“We stayed within the parameters of what a normal sponsorship is for a play,” he said. “Back in the days when the big banks used to do it, we kind of have to take their place until we get the big givers back alive again.”

Proposed plays to be sponsored at the Strand are “Guys and Dolls”; Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Ladies”; “Annie the Musical”; “Monty Python’s Spamalot” and Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.”

“The fact that we’re sponsoring five plays is not a random thought,” Tumlin said. “We think they have a dynamite season coming up. Five years from now, they might have five plays that everybody hates. The plays they’ve got are dynamite, will be well attended.”

The Lyric entered into a five-year contract with the Strand that expires Aug. 31. Annual rental payments were $100,000 to $120,000 a year, Blocker said.

Blocker said the Lyric has paid to the Strand $858,463 in rent, technical, cleaning, and restorations fees, as well as contributions for residency and naming rights since the start of the agreement. The Lyric will have paid the Strand more than $900,000 by the end of the five-year contract, he said.

Before negotiations broke down and the mayor had to step in, Blocker said he offered a proposal to extend the lease for two years at $92,000 a year for 10 weeks of rental, and an optional third year at $100,000 a year for 10 weeks.

“The Strand rejected that offer, and that is why we’ve had to consider another venue,” he said.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Give it up
March 25, 2013
Can the Lyric stop crying that they couldn't stiff the theater on their contract? They asked for a discounted rate on top of an already discounted rate and are now acting like the Strand is being unreasonable! And the whole town is eating it up. Ridiculous.
Be Careful
March 23, 2013
I sure am glad I don't live in Marietta.

I would be furious that tax money is being spent to prop up a failing venture.

A previous articel says they have less than 2,000 season ticket a county of around 800,000 people. That's 0.002% of the population. Not what I'd call overwhelming support.

This is a business venture. If people buy the product they stay in business. If people don't buy, they go out of business.

The Strand is a beautiful facility. But I fear it won't last long after 2015 when they have to start forking over $9,000 a month for rent.
Definition Man
March 23, 2013




March 23, 2013
Since this is the second time the Lyric has threatened to leave the Strand, maybe it's time to let them go and find other sources of revenue. Like the Fox and Variety Playhouse, live music would be a great alternative to musical theatre. Both the Fox and Variety have acts booked almost every night, with ticket prices starting at $25 and going up. With a good management company that handles live music and other types of live performance, the Lyric would become unnecessary. Think outside the box and stop being held hostage to Mr. Blocker and his mediocre troupe.
Pete Borden
March 23, 2013
Hats off to Thunder for effecting a marvelous rescue plan. The Lyric is a vibrant part of downtown Marietta, and it would be a great loss to have it leave the area.
Southern Patriot
March 23, 2013
No doubt Goldstein is pleased to hear this, it means more money in his pockets. We don't need more bailouts, if they don't have the public support needed to keep the doors open let them close.
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