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Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza needs your help

By Thousand Oaks Acorn

The City Council isn’t waiting any longer to find out if ticket sales will improve at the struggling Civic Arts Plaza.

At last week’s meeting, the council green-lit a pilot program that will allow the Civic Arts Plaza Foundation, the nonprofit organization that promotes performing arts programming and educational activities at the city’s two theaters, to spend more money to hire bigger acts (see related story on page 13).

This all-in strategy is a complete 180 for the foundation, which in the past has focused on bringing in low-cost, low-risk shows and relied on traditional promoters to bring in big-name acts. Now, with fewer and fewer promoters showing interest in the venue, it will be up to the foundation to deliver entertainment offerings that will return profits.

According to the latest figures, theater attendance dropped 38 percent from 2009 to 2010—from 320,000 patrons to 200,000— and the number of performances declined from 450 to 300. As a result, the theaters have become increasingly dependent on reserve money to operate.

But rather than cutting costs, the city is doing just the opposite, pumping in more money to attract more popular entertainers, acts that will bring in a younger and more diverse crowd.

The underlying message is clear: The city isn’t satisfied with the lineup being offered at the Kavli Theatre and Scherr Forum, and they want to do something about it.

As risky as the plan sounds, the city is running out of options. Despite the hard work of the foundation in recent years to improve programming, the theaters continue to attract a primarily 50 and over crowd. Nothing against the baby boomers, but if the city’s No. 1 concert venue expects to become self-sufficient, it’s going to need the help of the younger generation.

It was a little over 20 years ago that the City Council committed more than $130 million to the Civic Arts Plaza. It soon became Thousand Oaks’ largest attraction (besides The Oaks mall), and its success is vital to the future of the downtown area and the city itself.

We applaud the council for being proactive, for not continuing down a path to nowhere. But it’s up to us, as residents of Thousand Oaks, to show up and support the Civic Arts Plaza.

It may not be the best concert venue in Southern California, but it’s ours—and if we don’t start buying tickets, it might not always be around to enjoy.

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