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Local News

Rialto Square Theatre seeks $500,000 from Joliet, projects future deficits

The Rialto Square Theatre is seen in December 2013. The theater's management is seeking $500,000 from the city of Joliet for 2017.
The Rialto Square Theatre is seen in December 2013. The theater's management is seeking $500,000 from the city of Joliet for 2017.

JOLIET – The Rialto Square Theatre is asking the city of Joliet for $500,000 in 2017, a lower request than this year but one facing an uncertain response from the City Council.

Rialto officials may find out Thursday whether the council is willing to continue providing money after a year when the city and theater have been at odds at times.

Theater representatives expect to make a presentation to the council when it meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursday for its first workshop meeting on the 2017 budget.

Rialto management has sent city officials a business plan that projects the theater will become less dependent on the city for money in future years but still could need as much as $290,000 in 2021 to cover operating losses.

“We’re saying that need will continue to exist. We’re not saying the city would be the only entity to fund that,” said Steve Peters, president of VenuWorks.

VenuWorks was hired in September to take over management of the Rialto after the theater parted ways with its former general manager and decided to contract with an outside firm to run operations.

VenuWorks has been working for $1 a month but expects to start getting paid management fees in 2017 starting at $135,250 a year, according to the business plan. Those fees would rise to $152,225 in 2021.

Former general manager Randy Green was making $142,000 a year before he left in March after reaching a separation agreement with the Rialto.

Green left at a time when the Rialto had fallen behind on payroll taxes, creating a financial crisis that forced the city to advance money out of a $600,000 annual subsidy to make sure entertainers got paid for performances.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said Monday that he does not know what the full City Council will want to do about Rialto spending but expressed skepticism.

“I think the city made it clear since last spring that the days of just writing checks are over,” O’Dekirk said. “I think we were pretty clear that the days of sending money year after year without it being earmarked for anything are over.”

The business plan outlines future expenses and expected sources of revenues. But it does not specify how city funds will be used.

It also includes an expected $75,000 in “Other Governmental Support,” although Peters said the source of that money has not been identified.

A memorandum from Peters states that the Rialto has stopped the past practice of using box office receipts from future shows to pay current expenses, a practice he said left the theater without enough money to pay performers.



(without city subsidy)

2017: $500,000

2018: $448,000

2019: $388,000

2020: $342,000

2021: $290,000

Source: Rialto management business plan

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