Rialto Theatre Woes

Wayne Horne | 4/1/2016, 6:12 p.m.
Columnist-whorne@thetimesweekly.com The Times Weekly was notified by the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority Board Chairman Dan Vera on ...
Wayne Horne

Columnist- Whorne@thetimesweekly.com

The Times Weekly was notified by the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority Board Chairman Dan Vera on Thursday morning that the firm hired last week by the board, Theobald and Associates, has decided not to perform the requested financial review of the Rialto Theatre operations.

The company, a local certified public accounting firm, agreed to perform the audit for $275 per hour. The reason for the withdrawal, according to Vera, was the accounting firm felt constrained by provisions imposed by the City of Joliet. The City is insisting that the financial review come under the supervision of Joliet’s Inspector General’s office, which is looking to perform a much broader investigation of Rialto operations.

The action possibly puts the continuing operation of the Rialto in jeopardy. Sources have also indicated some ticket holders have requested refunds of upcoming performances.

The Joliet City Council has taken a rigid stance regarding any future funding beyond what has already been committed. Last week the Council agreed to fund the past due payroll taxes and guarantee performer talent payments for two upcoming shows. The payments will use some of the remaining $600,000 budgeted for the Rialto subsidy in the city’s 2016 budget.

Perhaps it’s time to take a deep breath and put the Rialto on hiatus after the performances already scheduled are completed. A fresh start is necessary if the theater is to survive long term. The public drama being displayed is damaging the Rialto’s reputation as a center for performing arts and the City of Joliet’s efforts to redevelop the downtown City Center.

The possible opportunity to make the “Jewel of Joliet” a bigger and better venue should not be overlooked. Just because the Rialto is an architectural gem does not necessarily transform it into an entertainment success story. The theater has been poorly managed for many years while surrounding theater venues have been very successful.

Step one should be to find out why these other venues, for example the Paramount Theatre in Aurora and the Arcadia Theatre in St. Charles, are successful. Step two should be to hire management with a successful track record in theater entertainment. Step three should be a financial plan that is sustainable. Until these three steps are undertaken the WCMEAA board should close the Rialto venue to prevent further damage to its reputation. Otherwise it seems the past several weeks of rhetoric have been just a waste of time and energy. Where do you stand?