JOLIET – Cash flow at the Rialto Square Theatre has come a long way since May, when the theater was getting late notices from Nicor because it couldn’t pay the gas bill on time.
On Wednesday, the Rialto board heard the theater had a cash balance of $364,000.
Not only is Nicor getting paid, but the Rialto is beating its projected cash balance for September by about $125,000.
Probably, the biggest factor in the turnaround was a $300,000 advance from the city of Joliet on the final two payments of the city’s annual $600,000 contribution to the Rialto.
But Rialto General Manager Randy Green said he believed the theater was on a sound financial footing for the remainder of 2015.
“I’m pretty confident,” Green said, comparing the remainder of the year to the situation in May. “That was merely the cash flow issue that was tied into the fact that we had to return Ed Czerkies’ money.”
Czerkies donated $350,000 for a new marquee that was stopped in mid-construction amid a popular uprising against the design of the new sign. Opponents also objected to a tribute to Czerkies’ parents on the marquee, which contributed to the donor eventually taking back his money.
The Rialto had spent $171,000 on the marquee, leading to the cash flow problem that now appears to have been checked. The marquee problem also contributed to a $9,000 loss at the end of the Rialto’s fiscal year in July.
Big repairs still needed
Even with the improved cash flow, Green said the financial problems created by the marquee situation have not been completely washed away.
“I’m weathering it,” he said. “But it’s inhibiting us from taking care of some other issues like the chimney.”
As winter gets closer, the Rialto chimney needs repairs estimated at more than $200,000. Green said the theater expects the chimney to make it through another winter.
Meanwhile, the Rialto still has not solved the marquee issue either.
On Wednesday, the board voted to hire Buchar, Mitchell, Bajt Architects out of Joliet for $4,500 to prepare bid specifications for a project that would renovate the existing marquee, keeping the basic design while adding digital features including an electronic sign board.
The Rialto is trying to use parts of the marquee that was being built by Landmark Sign Group. But the theater will look for another donor to fund the renovation costs, which are still to be determined, Green said.
Improved ticket sales
The financial outlook since May also has been brightened by brisk ticket sales.
Contributing to the earlier financial problems were unexpectedly weak ticket sales at the start of the 2014-15 season. This year, ticket sales are better than expected.
“I think the projected ticket sales here are low,” Financial Manager Dale Evans told the board Wednesday while discussing why cash balances are so far ahead of projections.