PRESS RELEASE: Hiatus from Movies to Plan - ACADEMY OF MUSIC


Lower-than-expected donations and diminishing numbers of moviegoers compel the Board of Trustees for the city-owned venue to reevaluate its plan for the future.

NORTHAMPTON – Faced with lower-than-expected revenues from movies and giving during 2006, The Board of Trustees of the Academy of Music Theater has unanimously decided to discontinue showing films as of Thursday, Jan. 4, and to review its program of live performances. Scheduled live events, including the family-oriented Four Sundays in February, will not be affected.

Over the next several months, the Board of Trustees will research how community members would like to use the historic city-owned building at 274 Main St., and draft a plan that responds to the feedback.

The past year served as an opportunity to test a full slate of varied programming under the leadership of a new and experienced executive director Elissa O. Getto. However, diminishing numbers of moviegoers and a low rate of giving necessitate an evaluation of the future use of the 116-year-old opera house.

“We hosted an ambitious season of movies and live events that included such renowned performers as Dave Brubeck. But there was not enough charitable support to sustain that schedule,” said Andrew Crystal, president of the Board of Trustees. “The Academy now needs to reflect on that experience and to hear from the community.”

Performing arts venues typically rely on a high rate of giving – about 30 percent – to support operations, a goal that the Academy of Music was unable to meet despite the bolstered slate of live performances, said Crystal.

During the Board of Trustees’ planning process, budgetary constraints necessitate that the Academy no longer maintain a staff of two full-time and two part-time employees, including Getto and longtime managing director Duane Robinson.

Robinson’s more than 30 years of service to the Academy of Music are reflected in the building. During his tenure, the Academy underwent a $2 million renovation that ensured the continued use of the 19th century theater’s balcony, orchestra pit and period furnishings.

“Words can not express our gratitude to Duane and the others who have cared for the Academy over the years, and who supported last year’s efforts to maintain this historic treasure in a changing arts environment,” said Crystal. “This was a tremendously difficult decision for the Trustees, and one that everyone hopes will mark a turning point for the Academy.”

Over the next several months, the Board of Trustees will consider two facets of the theater’s operation. Trustees will evaluate the viability of an 800-seat movie theater in a region with numerous movie theaters and the viability of presenting live performances.

Getto has offered to remain in her position in a volunteer capacity, an offer the Board of Trustees is considering. However, the Board of Trustees would never request nor expect employees to donate time.