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Local News

Joliet's Rialto Theatre needs help paying the gas bill

Theater seeks advance on Joliet money

The Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet. Rialto officials have asked the City of Joliet to advance the theater the last two quarterly payments, which total $300,000, of the city's annual $600,000 contribution.
The Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet. Rialto officials have asked the City of Joliet to advance the theater the last two quarterly payments, which total $300,000, of the city's annual $600,000 contribution.

JOLIET – The financial crunch at the Rialto Square Theatre has gotten so tight that the theater is not paying its gas bill.

Finance Manager Dale Evans reported last week that the Rialto got a "red notice" from Nicor Gas for a $10,000 unpaid gas bill from March.

During his monthly financial report to the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority, which oversees the Rialto, Evans also said he was "sitting on payroll taxes" normally paid out on the day paychecks are issued.

Instead, Evans said, the payroll taxes went out the next day – still within the allowable time period, but the first time he did not pay them the same day as payroll.

"It's a juggling act," Evans told the WCMEAA board.

Rialto officials have asked the City of Joliet to advance the theater the last two quarterly payments of the city's annual $600,000 contribution, a total of $300,000. They plan to go to Tuesday's City Council meeting to make their case.

"We have few options available to us," Rialto Executive Director Randy Green told the WCMEAA board last week.

Rialto officials said their cash flow problems are due in part to the marquee dilemma and also to weak pre-sales for the 2014-15 season of performances.

The Rialto returned a $350,000 marquee donation from retired businessman Ed Czerkies, who pulled back the contribution amid a swirling controversy over whether a memorial to his parents should go on the new sign.

Construction of the sign was stopped in mid-production at Landmark Sign Group in Indiana. But the Rialto already has paid $171,000 and owes at least another $26,000 as the board decides what to do about the marquee.

Green told the board some funds that otherwise would have been available to cover the cash flow problem have been used to settle marquee obligations.

"We had to use the existing money that we would normally use from the [Rialto] foundation to pay Mr. Czerkies and to pay what we need to pay Landmark signs," he said.

WCMEAA Chairman James Smith said the Rialto financial crunch actually started a year ago when pre-sales on tickets for the 2014-15 season were about $100,000 lower than anticipated.

"If you combine that with the marquee and the payment to Mr. Czerkies, it all snowballed," Smith said.

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk said the City Council likely will discuss the advance on Rialto payments at the Tuesday meeting. The Rialto probably will get the advance on the payments, but there may be conditions, he said.

"We want to make it clear what our position is," O'Dekirk said.

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