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VenuWorks reviews two years at Rialto

VenuWorks executive John Gimenez last week took a look back with the Rialto Square Theatre board at developments since the third-party manager arrived at the theater.

Reflecting back on the Rialto two years ago, Gimenez remarked, “You know, pitchforks in the streets and wanting to string up the building.”

VenuWorks was brought in as the first third-party manager for the Rialto at a time when shows had virtually stopped and theater management was in turmoil. A public uprising over an unpopular proposal to change the front entrance of the theater with a modern, glitzy marquee led to a series of troubles that eventually included ouster of the general manager and replacement of the entire board that oversees the Rialto.

The Rialto has staged 131 shows in the past two years, said Gimenez, vice president for event programming and content at VenuWorks, an Ames, Iowa-based manager of theaters and other event venues.

“We are on a lot more firm ground than we were two years ago,” Gimenez said.

Maybe it could have not gotten worse since there were questions at the time whether the Rialto would survive. The theater had developed a $650,000 backlog in bills, and service providers began demanding money in advance.

Noting how things have changed, Marketing Manager Micah McDade told the board, “Comcast approved us for credit. We don’t have to pay in advance for Comcast anymore.”

Gimenez noted that one of the first tasks when VenuWorks arrived was to win confidence in promoters to bring acts to the Rialto, looking back at the Ronnie Milsap performance in December 2016 as a start to the return of shows to the theater.

VenuWorks was brought in on a temporary basis in September 2016.

The company was signed to a five-year contract in February 2017.

Val Devine, the executive director at the Rialto, was hired by VenuWorks in April 2017.

The 131 events staged in the past two years count only shows sold through Ticketmaster, Gimenez said. It does not include movies, weddings and matinee events held for schoolchildren.

Gimenez said VenuWorks has largely avoided theatrical performances at the Rialto out of concern for losing money but is considering trying them again.

The Rialto currently has 15 shows scheduled, not counting classic movies that are part of the theater’s summer movie series. Singer Tony Bennett recently performed and filled the theater with a near sellout as 1,852 tickets were sold.

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