The Glendale City Council seems poised to move in a different direction on Tuesday regarding the management of the Alex Theatre, unless it does an about-face on the sole agenda item for a special meeting that afternoon.
For now, the action recommended by the municipal staff is for the council to terminate exclusive negotiations with Glendale Arts, which has managed and operated the venue since 2008, and engage a different operator in a contract. Although the city and Glendale Arts have been in negotiations since April, the council itself earlier this month decided that talks had stalled, hence the possible change.
It was with a different sort of fanfare that the Alex Theatre celebrated its 95th birthday this year. There was no party, per se, no gala or soiree complete with the latest in ballroom fashion, trays of wine or special performances in the historic theater. In fact, since March, there’s been little-to-no action in one of the Jewel City’s greatest, well, jewels in its collection. Save, of course, for the virtual telethon that served as the marathon birthday party for the venue, where its operating body served up $100,000 in donations to help the landmark soldier through the trials and tribulations of the coronavirus pandemic. While historic theaters throughout the nation, including elsewhere in Los Angeles County, face an uncertain future, the venerable Alex is already planning its centennial birthday five years ahead of schedule. “Since COVID,” explained Elissa Glickman, executive director of Glendale Arts and, therefore, the Alex Theatre, “obviously we haven’t been able to do live performances and our effort has been focused on, how do we maintain our staff, maintain our 95-year-old building and how do we remain relevant?” On top of the six-figure fundraiser from the birthday telethon, Glendale Arts has continued to otherwise seek prominent donations and funding. Federal coronavirus assistance and the Small Business Administration provided early loans and grants to help keep staff paid. In terms of relevance, the organization has endeavored to support its artists by launching an artist assistance program. “We significantly ramped up our fundraising efforts,” Glickman said. These efforts position Glendale Arts with the tools that will be necessary if they want to successfully pivot the Alex Theatre’s operations in the post-COVID era.
As one close friend coined it, a light went out on Sunday, July 26, when longtime Glendale resident Velvet Rhodes, the idiosyncratic founder of the Glendale International Film Festival, died in hospice care after a four-year battle with stage-4 cancer. Rhodes, who was 70, is survived by a brother in Tennessee and a cousin in Arizona. She leaves with her friends and colleagues the memory of a strong-willed woman whose fashion ensemble for the day would often announce her arrival to an event, whose passion for performing arts and her festival were positively radioactive, and who, by numerous accounts, would not take “no” for an answer. “I think really that’s the thing that stood out most about Velvet,” said Elissa Glickman, CEO of Glendale Arts, which operates the Alex Theatre. “At our first meeting, she pitched me an idea and concept that I wasn’t so keen on, but what her project could have brought to the community was so important that she made us believe that our vision could be her vision and it could translate into something really special to our community.”