Historic Theatre Building Safety

Building Safety

It is important, obviously, to protect the asset of the theatre property at all costs. For that reason a monitored system is recommended that will notify the police as well as you in the case of an intruder or fire issue. It is important to also monitor closely the issuance of keys to employees as well as a regular re-keying of important spaces. Keep the “call list” up to date so the security company knows who to wake up at 4am when they get a false alarm. Even though I lived just 5 minutes away from the theatre, I was wide awake by the time I would get there to meet the police and would tend to charge in to protect my the theatre only to find nothing.

Patron Safety

In regards to patron safety at events, as well as performer safety, an important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as “crowd control”. You can “manage a crowd” but not control a crowd. Key elements of the management of an audience include the obvious areas of adequate lighting and backup generators, a trained staff, but also it is crucial to have the correct number of professional, trained security people on hand relative to the audience. Depending on the local rules related to security in a venue (and relative to liquor sales if applicable), a minimum of 1 trained security staff per 250 guests is a must. Some cities may require uniformed off-duty police officers, while others just want to see trained staff with no other responsibilities. At my former theatre, I hired out for security as opposed to having staff. This was due to liability issues as well as the uncertainty of a four-wall rental with limited self-presenting. With rentals, I would set the security based on the attendance and my research on the type of audience I was expecting. Of course the talent’s rider would often specify security outside the artist’s dressing room door, at the front of the stage, as well as in the loading dock area which is often non-negotiable.

The adjunct to this discussion is the use of volunteers as ushers and de facto first line of security. This is not an option. I had a rule to not put volunteers in harms way or in a position where they would be exposed to potential large problems. So, I kept volunteers away from selling tickets or concessions and did not ask them to get involved with security issues. They were expected to “observe and report” and I never had a problem.

2013 Historic Theatre Survey

We’re proud to announce we are now conducting our 3rd annual Historic Theatre Survey. Last year the survey compiled data from more than 90 different theaters from coast to coast. Information in the survey covered all aspects of business practices as well as trends relative to restoration and programming. If you are interested in participating in this year’s survey go to :

2013 Historic Theatre Survey

If you are interested in receiving a copy of last year’s survey, email us:


All who participate in the 2013 survey will receive a copy of the final document.

Know Your Statistics

How crucial are the day-to-day “numbers” of your business? How often should I spend some time analyzing the data? What should I be looking for? Who should look at this data?

All of these questions are valid, and, given the limited staff resources many historic theatres have to bring to these tasks, it is important to balance our limited time on the most important tasks. Let’s take a look at each one of these questions in turn.

1) The importance of analyzing day-to-day statistics is a crucial element of both managing cash flow and both short-term and long-term strategic planning. If we don’t notice a dip in per cap income, we might miss an opportunity to change some items out before we are left with a lot of un-saleable items on our hands. If we don’t notice a decline in attendance on specific nights of the week, regardless of the program being offered, we may find ourselves with a string of losing dates that will affect our ability to staff for other events. If we fail to analyze our utility bills year to year, we may miss crucial leaks or inefficiencies in our HVAC systems.

2) How often should I be reviewing my data?
It makes sound business sense to compile everything you can and review monthly, quarterly as well as yearly, the key statistics of your operation. By looking closer at these items we find that we can see further in the future.

3) What should I be looking for?
Trends will become apparent with as few as three months of data in some cases, while in other cases, it will take a full year of numbers to see what you can expect. While a newly restored building will need 12 months of utility bills to use as a baseline, small changes in an operating facility, related to one or two degrees at the thermostat, may yield a great return. What happens when we raise the cost of an item at the concession stand? Try it, and track your sales to see if the price had any impact on your bottom line. It will take time to identify the statistics and indicators that are most important to your venue, the sooner you start, the sooner you will have a rich mine of information to draw from.

4) Who should analyze this data?
The Executive Director, Business Manager and/or key senior staff should be brought into the discussion to see if there are any suggestions to improve operational efficiency. Chances are there will be some good suggestions from the people “in the trenches” everyday. Be sure to reward positive change to encourage ongoing vigilance related to a streamlined operation. After all, we all want our venues to be around another 75 years and if we can get through the hard times of today, we should be in good shape for the better days ahead.

HTC has been an important part of our preservation success. Their help has made our work more efficient and definite in purpose.

Regina Garrett
Executive Director, The President Theatre, Manchester, Georgia