, Maria Munoz-Blanco, director of the city'sOffice of Cultural Affairs
, told Unfair Park that she had hoped to have in place a new operator for the Majestic Theatre by mid-May of 2010 at the latest. Requests for proposals were out, and, fingers crossed, the city hoped it could find someone to take over managing the facility following Dallas Summer Musicals' decision more than a year ago to leave after suffering a $1-million loss since taking over the downtown landmark in 1999.
Turns out, the city didn't get any proposals it liked -- blame it on the bad economy or what Munoz-Blanco calls "the growing market" of entertainment venues in and around downtown. Which is why, beginning November 1, the Office of Cultural Affairs will take over the Majestic's bookings. As it happens, that Sarah Palin performance on November 10 is the city's first official rental as operator.
"We put out the call for a management organization under terms that would be mutually beneficial," Munoz-Blanco says. "But the RFP didn't bring in what we were looking for. We tried to work it out with Dallas Summer Musicals to see if we could facilitate them staying in the building, but their decision was to focus on the Music Hall, which is the core of their business, and with some available dates at the Music Hall -- with Dallas Opera moving to the Winspear -- it became time for Dallas Summer Musicals to focus on that. We could have closed the Majestic or operated it ourselves, and we couldn't close down the Majestic. It's too important to the cultural life of the city."
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In May 2009, Munoz-Blanco told Unfair Park it costs somewhere between $1.2 to $1.3 million annually to operate the Majestic. That's quite a bit more than the $767,922 set aside for the Majestic in the city's annual budget. But the head of the OCA says it has put together "a conservative business plan to make it work with as little subsidy as we can from the city."
She says her office has taken a look at recent attendance numbers, factored in the facility fee charged per ticket and decided that if it ups the number of events booked into the Majestic -- be it a concert, a play (with several dates), a politician's speech or a regular ol' corporate booking -- it should do OK. After all, the Majestic's not used as often as it could be -- last time Munoz-Blanco and I spoke, DSM was only using the venue 60 percent of the year.
I asked her: What happens if the city can't make a go of the Majestic? Will it have to put out another call for proposals, or is there a chance it could be shuttered till someone does take an interest in reviving the venue that opened on April 11, 1921, with a performance by Olga Petrova?
"I am going to be an optimist and tell you there is no worst-case scenario," she says. "We're not going to produce programs here. We'll try to be cautious on the expenditures so we can generate as much revenue as is necessary to maintain operations. But it's important to liven up this part of downtown. It's a challenge, sure, but we're arts people. That doesn't stop us from doing anything."