January 17, 2010

Tough Times in Cleveland

In East Cleveland, some streets are lined with homes abandoned after foreclosures and evictions. Junkies, drug dealers, squatters and the homeless are known to inhabit these buildings, and the area has become extremely dangerous. Some residents refer to it as "Mad Max." - TIME, March 25, 2008

Once rumored to be the largest mall in the United States, the Randell Park Mall is all but closed due to violence, bad maintanance, poor business, and the current mortgage crisis. The vast cavernous atriums remain dark as a handfull of people roam the mall. Most of the shops remain dark, and those few that are open sell jewelry to young rappers who come in to shop. Theft is common place for those shops that remain open, but mostly the massive mall is closed down. - TIME, March 28, 2008

Tough Times Call for Hard Sell from Cleveland-Area Theaters

January 5, 2009

Cleveland-area theaters are trying hard to avoid going the way of Akron's Carousel Dinner Theatre -- out of business -- by working hard at selling tickets. They're shocked by the sudden demise of Akron's Carousel Dinner Theatre, and they're stinging from 20 percent drops in ticket sales for popular holiday shows.

But instead of panicking, Cleveland-area theaters are taking precautionary measures to stay alive and well:
  • The Cleveland Play House will reduce its main stage offerings from nine shows this season to seven shows this coming season, the first time in decades that number has fallen below eight.

  • Cleveland Public Theatre will postpone a world premiere of a locally written play to save on the heating bill.

  • And PlayhouseSquare and the producers of next week's touring Broadway show, "Frost/Nixon" starring Stacy Keach, have discounted tickets a whopping 55 percent to $25.
The theater business across the nation is suffering from the same symptoms as retail, housing and other sectors of economy as the cascading effects of the global financial crisis show no signs of letting up.

That goes for commercial operations like Carousel, which closed Saturday night after sales slumped and banks withdrew longstanding credit, and Broadway theaters in New York, where a dozen shows will close this month for lack of tourist dollars.

And it goes for nonprofit professional regional theaters across the country, some of which have already gone under or stand on the brink of extinction, like North Shore Music Theatre, a suburban Boston institution for 55 years that may shutter as early as Sunday.

Theater, the most popular performing art form in the country, is big business. The Broadway League estimates its producers' shows grossed nearly $2 billion New York and on the road last season.

Nonprofit regional theaters, meanwhile, generated almost as much in fiscal 2007, according to a 2007 study by the Theatre Communications Group.

In Cleveland, theater is one of the biggest contributors to the cultural sector's estimated $1 billion impact on Northeast Ohio, led by PlayhouseSquare, which draws 1 million visitors a year, and its Broadway Series, the most popular performing arts program in the region.

Despite the big bucks and calls for a federal bailout of the arts -- most prominently by Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser last week in the Washington Post -- Cleveland theaters say they're preparing for the worst to preserve the best of what they do.
"Who can we realistically turn to for an emergency infusion of cash?" asked Great Lakes Theater Festival producing artistic director Charles Fee.

"Everybody -- the government, foundations, corporations, individuals -- is in the same boat," he said. "There is no bailout waiting for us. We've got to figure this out on our own."
Cleveland's theaters have two big advantages. They've been through this for most of this decade and many have already downsized and reorganized. And they get a chunk of the cash generated by Cuyahoga County's 30-cents-a-pack cigarette tax for arts. In 2007, the first year of the tax, it generated $18.6 million.
"This community can be really, really thankful for that cigarette tax money," said Gina Vernaci of downtown Cleveland's PlayhouseSquare. "The timing for that could not have been more exquisite. If anything is going to give us a cushion to get through this, it's that."
Despite the cushion, the across-the-board drops in ticket sales for Christmas shows that are supposed to generate cash to support the rest of the season were daunting:
  • PlayhouseSquare's 46-performance run of "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular," back for the first time in years, fell 17 percent short of projections.

  • Great Lakes Theater Festival's "A Christmas Carol" was off 16 percent from last year despite new casting, a different director and better reviews.

  • "A Christmas Story" at the Play House fell 20 percent from 2007 despite restructuring the performance week to play sell-out school matinees and glowing notices for a reinvigorated show.
And just as those losses were being toted up, Carousel, a 35-year institution that drew up to 200,000 a year, went down in a matter of days. It was the second area musical theater to fail in the past year after last February's bankruptcy of Kalliope Stage in Cleveland Heights.

Principal owner Joe Palmer would not discuss details, but sources at Carousel said slow ticket sales were compounded by a demand from a credit card processor for collateral and the withdrawal of a credit line from a bank ...

Cleveland Business Forced to Shut Down After 101 Years in Service

March 24, 2009

A. LoPresti & Sons announced on their website that they have ceased operations after 101-years of service.
"Thank you for helping us to provide a century of outstanding service. We regret to inform you that A. LoPresti & Sons, Inc. has ceased operations.

Although we are deeply saddened by this development, we remain proud of the legacy of our family and our company, and can rejoice in celebrating a century of outstanding service. Throughout our history, we have maintained the highest ethical standards and a deep commitment to the Greater Cleveland community. We are thankful for the support of our customers and suppliers, and grateful for the dedication of several generations of employees, who have been our extended family." - Patricia LoPresti, CEO & President

LoPresti & Sons was established in 1908 and delivers fresh produce & frozen foods to businesses & restaurants.

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