With Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts having shuttered last month due to the coronavirus, village officials are now taking steps to get the theater’s books in order — and staffing in place — to open in September. Or whenever the state gives the OK.
“We will reopen and we will be as good as ever. When? That will be figured out,” said Patchogue Trustee Jack Krieger, the village board’s liaison to the theater. “It’s a fluid situation.”
The 1,200-seat downtown theater is owned by the village but managed by a nonprofit board of directors. Last month, the village and board laid off the entire paid staff after closing its doors.
“Every theater basically on earth is closed right now,” Krieger said.
Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri said that over the last almost three years, an endowment that had grown to nearly $1.1 million was drained by about two-thirds.
The endowment was in place as a reserve to borrow money for programming, with programming proceeds going back to replenish the reserve while keeping the fund largely steady. The endowment also garnered interest.
But the programming as of late simply wasn’t driving enough revenues.
The staffing had also become somewhat bloated, Pontieri and Krieger said.
Come this March, the endowment had shrunk to abut $400,000, with another $100,000 owed in payroll and other expenses, according to Pontieri.
After laying everyone off last month, including the theater’s executive director, the theater has now hired back its box office manager and its PR and promotions head in order to “set the table,” said Kreiger, for a grand reopening by this Sept.1, should the state allow.
“We’ll do an audit on expenses going back, so we don’t make the same mistakes moving forward,” Pontieri said. “[The endowment] had been working well.”
The board will also be likely looking to hire a new executive director, or perhaps a theater manager.
What a reopened Patchogue Theatre might look like is also anyone’s guess.
Krieger said social distancing restrictions might cut the maximum capacity from nearly 1,200 people to 600 people, or as little as 400 if the theater needs to hold multiple empty seats between audience members.
So the challenge and the plan is to make money, no matter what the circumstances.
“We’re already talking to acts and hopefully we’ll have some pretty good announcements to make,” Krieger said.