Temple Theater in Danger of Closing
The area is in danger of losing its only professional theater. Sanford's Temple Theatre could close its doors before the end of this season.
"We need approximately $150,000 to complete the current season, assuming ticket sales and donations maintain current patterns," Artistic Director Peggy Taphorn said Sunday. "As we stand here today, the Temple Theatre is struggling financially at almost the same level we are succeeding artistically."
The theater had an $84,000 shortage three shows into an eight-show season, and is $81,000 off in current ticket sales. Donations and corporate sponsorships dropped along with the stock market, and both state and county grants were cut mid-season.
The economic downturn hit just as the theater opened its season with "A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline" -- chosen because the same show several years ago was the biggest seller in Temple history. As stocks plunged and banks closed around the world, Temple saw its lead show playing to very small audiences. It got worse with the second show, "Footloose." With a cast of 42 local actors, including over 20 area youth, the show played at times with more people on stage than in the audience.
"Traditionally, the Christmas show is a big seller in the season and will carry the Theatre through the lean months of January and February," Taphorn said. "In 2007-2008, the Christmas show's net revenue was $46,000, and to date the figure from this year's production is $23,000."
In the past, Temple Theatre could rely on its line of credit to get through those weak months. This year, with low ticket sales, decreased donations, reduced grants and fewer corporate sponsorships, the theater's $50,000 line of credit, its cushion, was depleted.
Taphorn and Temple Theatre supporters are reaching out to the broader community for help and ideas. She hopes enough support can be found to complete this season while working on a long-range endowment plan to guarantee the theater's survival.
"There are no angels, there is no magic formula," she said. "No one is going to ride in at the 11th hour and save us. It ultimately will fall to us, as the stewards and staff of the Temple Theatre, to make the vital series of events happen to make this a financially viable organization. There is a community meeting Wednesday at 8 a.m. at the Temple Theatre. This meeting is open to all business, community and civic leaders. We hope to brainstorm about ideas and also collect funds and pledges on the spot."
The company cut its current budget by over $180,000 but is still in the red. The quickest way concerned theatergoers could help Temple is by coming to a show.
"Buy tickets and come to see the productions!" Taphorn said. "We have extended our 'Holiday Pass' -- five shows for the price of four -- until the end of 'Hamlet' on Jan. 25. We are offering five-dollar tickets to students with an ID for any performance of 'Hamlet' so that we can educate and encourage the audience of tomorrow."
Several fundraisers are scheduled in the days and months ahead, including a $35 a person Feb. 14 Valentine's Day party at one supporter's home in Sanford with entertainment provided by Lisa Dames. Additional fundraising activities are being added daily, according to Taphorn, who still has hope the theater's future can be saved.
"Our goal is to make The Temple Theatre the finest theater, the finest arts organization, in our region, operating on a premise of exciting, first-rate art supported by a sound, manageable business model," she said. "The future can be great, if we can get there together."
More like this story