Metropolis theater has new plan, positive financial outlook

 
 
Updated 5/12/2015 11:18 AM
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  • Arlington Heights will provide the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre with $225,00 this fiscal year.

      Arlington Heights will provide the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre with $225,00 this fiscal year. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • The Metropolis in downtown Arlington Heights.

      The Metropolis in downtown Arlington Heights. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • The band Faith and Whiskey performing at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights in 2013.

      The band Faith and Whiskey performing at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights in 2013. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • "Suburban Chicago's Got Talent" at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre.

      "Suburban Chicago's Got Talent" at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

After months of study, Arlington Heights trustees on Monday said it is "a new day" for the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre.

Six months ago the downtown theater came to the village asking for a $450,000 bailout just to keep the doors open, but during Monday night's presentation of a new business and financing plan for Metropolis, officials from the village and the theater said they are cautiously optimistic that the organization is on the upswing.

"It's been a long road, but it's been a very productive road," said Village President Tom Hayes. After three hours of discussion, the board largely supported the ideas in a new 40-page plan for the Metropolis and the funding mechanisms to help it break even, or even turn a profit, in the future.

The positive outlook is in large part thanks to new Executive Director Joe Keefe, a new financial director, a village-created oversight committee and the amount of support for Metropolis throughout Arlington Heights.

Trustee John Scaletta, who was a member of the oversight committee, said gross revenue from holiday shows at the end of 2014 were the best in five years, and a recent gala brought in the highest amount of donations ever.

"This is the beginning of a new day at Metropolis," Scaletta said

A study done by CH Johnson earlier this year showed Metropolis brings $3 million in direct spending to Arlington Heights, but it also said that a theater like Metropolis can expect to always require some level of village funding to succeed.

For the fiscal year running from May 1 through Dec. 31, that will include $225,000 in village funding, up from the placeholder amount of $113,900 that was in the approved budget.

Of that, $206,500 will go toward Metropolis operating expenses and $18,500 will go to set up a separate account to start a reserve fund for the theater.

Officials debated how to handle the reserve fund, which in the past has been used toward operational expenses. Hayes said that in spite of previous financial mismanagement and transparency issues, moving forward with Metropolis is all about trust.

"I do trust them ... I think we need to give them the flexibility to be successful going forward," he said.

Officials said they are looking forward to the next year of programming, which includes productions of "Rent" and "Spamalot" as ways to boost ticket revenues, contributions and good will surrounding the theater.

"Good programming, like a high tide, raises all boats," Keefe said.

The new business plan presented on Monday said Metropolis will also focus more on marketing and development in the future. The school also plans to add at least two new classes, reintroduce spring break music camps and eventually work toward getting students college credit.

The money for Metropolis comes from the Arts, Entertainment and Events fund, which receives 20 percent of food and beverage taxes brought in by Arlington Heights. The rest goes into the general fund. To provide more money to Metropolis without increasing taxes, the village board will change the formula so 25 percent of food and beverage tax receipts go to the A&E fund, which also pays for annual special events in town.

Next, staffers will work on an agreement with Metropolis outlining the future relationship between the two entities. The village board is expected to take action on that agreement in June.

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