Byrd Theatre facing tight financial times

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Could the Byrd Theatre be forced to close its doors? NBC12 has uncovered new information on the Carytown institution's financial drama. The theatre is seeing a steep drop in donations.

When you think about Carytown, more than likely the first thing that comes to mind is the once opulent Byrd Theatre. Merchants Association President Bob Broomfield explained Carytown developed around the 81-year-old landmark.

"It has helped define the attitude and funkiness, quirkiness, and the style that has been so much about Carytown," he said.

The tough economy has created a bizarre situation for the movie palace, which sells tickets for a $1.99. General Manager Todd Schall-Vess told us day-to-day business is actually doing okay and raising prices would force them to send more money to the film distributors.

It is the fundraising side causing problems. People just aren't digging deep into their pockets.  A recent break-in, in which thieves damaged the doors and stole donations, only made the situation worse. And that means things like renovations, new seats and bathrooms might become a pipe dream.

"Fundraising has really bottomed out," he said.

Well, most people we talked to can't imagine a Carytown without the Byrd Theatre. We asked Schall-Vess if the unimaginable could become reality.

"I don't want to be accused of scare tactics," he said. "I don't think that we're in immediate danger of having a wrecking ball parked in front of the building or anything like that. That being said, it is absolutely not going to be possible for the Byrd to continue serving the Richmond community without fundraising improving."

According to Broomfield, Carytown can't afford to lose its heart.

"They have been very much a part of the community and maybe now it's time for the community to step up and help the Byrd," he said.

If you want to learn more about how the theatre is run and how you can help, you can view our entire interview with the theatre manager here.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved