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Local News

Potential Rialto Square Theatre managers made their pitch

The Rialto Square Theatre is seen Dec. 23, 2013. Two finalists are vying for third-party management of the venue.
The Rialto Square Theatre is seen Dec. 23, 2013. Two finalists are vying for third-party management of the venue.

JOLIET – Both companies in the running to take over operations at the Rialto Square Theatre say they are ready to start Sept. 1.

The Rialto board at a special meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday is slated to vote on whether to turn over management of the theater to Pinnacle Venue Services or VenuWorks. Sept. 1 has been mentioned as a possible start date. Here is what representatives from the two companies said they could do for the theater during presentations made at a Rialto committee meeting Monday.


Pinnacle made news with the surprise announcement that they had made Ron Onesti, who was turned down in his bid to be the third-party manager, part of its team. Onesti has some community support and is known for his Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

But Pinnacle Managing Partner Doug Higgons said his company has experience running 13 venues and would bring in a management team immediately to review Rialto operations.

“We’re not a cookie-cutter approach,” Higgons told the Rialto committee Monday. “How we operate a theater in Florida does not impact how we operate a theater in Joliet or Pennsylvania or anyplace else.”

Pinnacle, based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, manages the Bank United Center for the University of Miami and smaller theaters comparable to the Rialto, he said.

The company is less than two years old, but Higgons said he and the three other company officers who joined him in the presentation have more than 150 years of combined experience in the entertainment business.

Higgons said he believes the Rialto could have 145 events in the first year of Pinnacle management, and he called that a “conservative projection.” He predicted 175 events annually by the third year.


The VenuWorks team discussed ticket sales, bookings, food and beverage sales, acts performing at its other theaters, and even safety planning for tornadoes and other emergencies.

VenuWorks President Steve Peters said the company would be able to increase Rialto revenues by $295,000 in the first year of management.

“This isn’t a pipe dream,” Peters said.

Food and beverage sales will be a big part of the new revenue, VenuWorks representatives said. They mentioned walking tacos, sandwiches and even soup as menu items that generate money for daylong events such as dance competitions at a theater in Burnsville, Minnesota.

“We’re trying a lot of new menu items, and we’re seeing a very positive return,” said Brian Luther, executive director of the Ames Center in Burnsville.

Peters also presented a schedule for reducing the Rialto’s subsidy from the city, which was $600,000 this year, to $125,000 in three years, although he added, “These aren’t guarantees.”

VenuWorks is based in Ames, Iowa, and manages 37 theaters, sports facilities, conference centers and outdoor venues.

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