The original strategic plan for operation of the Gillioz involved receiving Federal and State tax credits to offset the cost of the $10 million renovation. While Federal tax credits were received, the Missouri Department of Economic Development denied State tax credits, leaving the financial burden on leasing the three floors of the Netters Building and programming on the Theatre side. As with any renovation, unforeseen additional expenses arose and the financial liability to challenge the Department of Economic Development proved too big a burden to pursue. Plans to compensate for the lack of State tax credits with fundraising fell through as the economic climate took a downturn.
While the operation of the Theatre began with a slow start when it reopened in 2006, the Theatre has recently enjoyed a dramatic build up in momentum. In 2010 the Gillioz has more than doubled its activity and revenue, hosting several sold out crowds, and a variety of events that have drawn a large number of patrons throughout the year including concerts, comedy and theatre.
Currently, Springfield Regional Opera has selected the Gillioz as its home for their 2010-2011 season. Additionally, the theatre has hosted several other community events including the Children's Choirs of Southwest Missouri and the Imagine concert to benefit Women in Need. The upsurge in activity has been accomplished despite cost cutting measures.
The Theatre's director, Michael Owens, is the only fulltime employee, while all other staff are scheduled and billed to a specific event. Both Michael and the Theatre's board of directors are proud of the fact that, by year end, Theatre operations will be in the black.
"When it became apparent that we would not obtain well over a million dollars in tax credits, we sought out a possible donor to buy out the debt. We think we have one, but we need the community's help in matching those funds," said board president Dave Roling. "The board has identified a donor who has committed a significant amount for the purchase of the Theatre and Netters Building from the bank. But that amount, to date, is not sufficient to settle the debt, and thus we need the community's help in raising additional funds to purchase the note," said Roling.
Currently, operation of the Theatre will continue as planned. Among other events scheduled for December, the Gillioz Theatre will be a host venue for the Springfield's popular First Night festivities, featuring a concert by former American Idol Chris Sly. In a discussion with the bank earlier this week, options have been explored to continue operations should the bank own the assets after the end of the year.
Board member, Philip Rothschild, professor of Entertainment Management at MSU, said, "The turn around of the Gillioz in terms of operations and programming over the last 12 months has been nothing short of remarkable. While concerts and tours across the country have been cancelled, and tickets almost given away, what the Gillioz has accomplished is impressive. It would be a tragedy to lose one of the most beautiful event centers in the southwest region. Our Springfield and downtown community needs the Gillioz, but the Gillioz needs our community more than ever before."
Operated by the Springfield Landmarks Preservation Trust, the restoration of the Gillioz Theatre was completed in October 2006, eighty years after the original opening. In its early years, the Gillioz was Springfield's premier entertainment venue, hosting a number of movie premiers and vaudeville shows. Both the lobby and auditorium have been restored to their original 1926 condition, which has made it a must-see for tourists traveling the former Route 66. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
With a seating capacity of 1130, 690 on Orchestra level, and 440 in the Balcony, the Gillioz offers Springfield a perfect sized venue for many events. The Gillioz Theatre in conjunction with the Jim D. Morris Building serves a plethora of functions including Broadway productions, theatre, movies, religious gatherings, arts education, dining, rehearsals, school programs, banquets, receptions, concerts, film festivals, weddings, seminars/conventions, and television broadcasts.