When the Atlanta Lyric Theatre company moved from the Strand Theatre to the Civic Center on the corner of South Marietta Parkway and Fairground Street earlier this year, the Downtown Marietta Development Authority scrambled to keep theatergoers at downtown restaurants on show nights.
The DMDA paid The Historic Marietta Trolley Co. $4,500 to shuttle people from the Civic Center to the Square for the production of “The Producers,” which ran for 11 shows from Aug. 9 to Aug. 25.
Last month, 247 people rode the trolley, which meant the DMDA paid $18 a person.
The amount of riders would have to double to be a good investment, DMDA Chairman Tom Browning said.
One trolley can hold 30 riders, and the published rate for The Historic Marietta Trolley Co. on a Saturday night is $225 an hour.
“We gave the DMDA a tremendously discounted rate,” said Brian Buckalew, who owns the trolley company.
DMDA board member Dave Reardon, who owns Shillings on the Square, said the problem was not enough people knew about the trolley service.
“If we do it again, we really need to get the word out,” Reardon said.
Buckalew said the number of people using the service grew each weekend, with more than 40 people riding the trolley Saturday nights.
Good for business
Reardon said he compared the earnings of his restaurant to nights when the Lyric was housed at the Strand to when it moved into the Civic Center.
“Number wise, I didn’t see that big of a change as far as money brought in,” he said.
Mayor Steve Tumlin said he took the trolley to a recent show.
“I enjoyed the ride over. It was fun,” Tumlin said.
Buckalew said he was thankful for the trial run.
“Any time we get to participate in anything on the Square, it is fun,” he said.
The Civic Center will host the Atlanta Lyric Theatre’s next show, “Guys and Dolls,” from Oct. 25 to Nov. 10.
The show will go on
Gene Phillips, president of the Miss Cobb Pageant that is every year at the Civic Center, has attended many Lyric productions over the last few years at the Strand Theatre.
Before or after a show, “and even sometimes both,” Phillips said he dines at a restaurant on the Square.
Last month, Phillips used his own car to make the trek from downtown to the Civic Center, but said he thinks the trolley is a good idea and saw people using the service.
Phillips said the stage at the Civic Center is bigger than the Strand’s, and every seat in the auditorium is great.
“I think they can do more with the lighting and the sound,” Phillips said, c comparing the new and old venues.
Allan Kilpatrick, associate artistic director for the Atlanta Lyric Theatre, said “The Producers” was the biggest production in the company’s 33-year history, due to having more room for scenery, set pieces and props.
“A little of the intent with ‘The Producers’ was to show off what we could do in the new venue,” Kilpatrick said.
The biggest audiences for “The Producers” were Saturday nights and Sunday matinees, with close to 500 audience members in the over 600-seat venue, he said.