For just under a century, the Globe Theatre on Wall Street in Norwalk has had multiple third acts, its fortunes rising and falling with that of the city’s historic downtown district.
Prior to shutting down in 2004, the building had been home to nearly every form of entertainment from vaudeville acts and double-features from the Golden Age of cinema to hip-hop performers like 50 Cent.
Now, a new developer is hoping the long-derelict theatre can make one more comeback, this time as a multi-purpose venue that will accommodate concerts, digital productions, cinema, conferences and theatre.
“Theatres give definition to a neighborhood,” said Frank Farricker, the lead developer who heads the Wall Street Theatre Company. “Our job is to bring in people at different times and act as a catalyst for people who are already here.”
Growing Community Supports Theatre
The city has benefited from a housing boom.
“It’s that activity that is necessary to support a theatre,” said Tad Diesel, the city’s director of marketing and business development.
“This is a symbiotic thing. A theatre without a neighborhood wouldn’t work but a neighborhood without a theatre isn’t a good thing.”
According to Philip Kuchma, a developer in Bridgeport, theatre operators need every edge they can get.
“What has to be accomplished by a theatre is activity for as many hours of every day, of every year,” he said. And to do that, he explained, theatres need to rely on relatively diverse uses.
“It doesn’t mean audiences will come back,” Kuchma said. “But the first attempt is to get them to a place for any reason and have them get interested.”
Kuchma is candid about the difficulties of running a theatre, from the high costs of renovations to the necessity of hiring experienced management that can oversee smart programming and effective marketing.
While he said he often feels cities and developers cannot afford to let some venues remain as theatres “I also think we cannot afford to let them not to.”
Are you a venue manager or owner? How has the recession and the local community played a part in your business? Join in the discussion at The LEVEL Summit 2013 in London.