PITTSBURG -- The California Theatre has taken another step toward reopening its doors, now that it has a professional management group to book shows, produce events and sell tickets.
Lafayette-based Venuetech Management Group will run day-to-day operations of the theater.
"People are calling us and are interested in doing events," said John Lind, president of Venuetech. But, he added, no public events can be officially booked until some administrative matters are first resolved.
"We're in the process of hiring a manager now that we have a contract in place, and we have a few improvements that we are making with the city. We're working with all that right now. It's our hope to get it done in the next 30 days," Lind said.
The to-do list also includes setting up a box office to sell tickets, along with office space to house a half-dozen or so part-time employees whose salaries will be paid by Venuetech to handle marketing, ticket sales and other tasks.
In addition, the company is developing policies for setting rental rates, what kind of events would be suitable, and insurance requirements.
The theater opened in 1920 and served as a venue for vaudeville acts, silent films, live entertainment and movies before closing in 1954. In 1970, the city purchased the building.
Ten years ago, redevelopment funds became available for its restoration, and the work was finally completed earlier this year. In January, an opening gala celebrated the completion of the $7.6 million renovation of the beaux-arts building on Railroad Avenue in Old Town. The main auditorium has seating for about 300.
Venuetech manages other publicly owned theaters in California, including the Vacaville Performing Arts Theatre, Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center in San Ramon, Heritage Theatre in Campbell and the Downey Civic Theatre.
The company will book some nationally touring acts and films at the California Theatre, but mostly will work with the city, local nonprofits and the Pittsburg Arts and Community Foundation to develop community events for fundraisers. There is one confirmed booking in June: a private party has scheduled a wedding at the theater, Lind said.
Under the five-year agreement approved in April by the City Council, Venuetech will be paid about $200,000 a year for running day-to-day operations, said a staff report. The cost will be paid by Pittsburg Power Co., the city-owned power company that uses revenues from energy projects it develops to promote economic development in the city.
"The theater is anticipated to be an economic driver for Old Town Pittsburg, bringing more people into Old Town to visit the stores, buy a meal or dessert at the coffee shop, etc., so that is why this fund is involved in the support of the theater budget," Jill Hecht, assistant to the city manager, wrote in an email.
Lind cited statistics from a national study that found a patron who attends an event at a publicly owned theater on average will spend an additional $24.60 beyond the cost of the ticket on extras such as going out to dinner or dessert and coffee after the event.
In 2004, Venuetech completed a feasibility study for Pittsburg's then-redevelopment agency on the property.
"Many years ago, we helped do an analysis of the building when it was just a condemned building (and) looked to see what the opportunities were, " he said.
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.