The Cedartown Performing Arts Center is canceling a show of Christmas music due to poor ticket sales, low public support of the facility and dwindling finances.
Patrick Moore, director of the center, said the operational fund is nearly empty. Ticket sales cover a portion of the center’s bills, but they have always depended on corporate sponsorships and donations to stay afloat.
Due to the Great Recession, money from businesses and private donors dried up this year, he said.
“We need donors, we need sponsors,” Moore said. “We’ve gone to everyone we can think of in Polk County and Floyd County. We’ve gotten nothing this year.”
The Cedartown City Commission voted in a special meeting Thursday night to cancel the Dec. 9 Judy Collins Christmas Show. The city owns the auditorium and has oversight for its operation.
The cancellation was made very reluctantly, with the final vote 3-1. Commissioner Gary Martin was worried about the precedent canceling a show sets, and also about the effect it could have on the public image of the auditorium and city.
“I don’t like canceling,” Martin said.
“Neither do I,” Commission Chairman Larry Odom responded. “But it’s time to make tough decisions.”
Odom votes only in case of a tie, or lack of a quorum. Commissioners Dale Tuck, Scotty Tillery and John Barrett voted to cancel the Dec. 9 show. Martin voted against the motion.
The auditorium has a seating capacity of 940 people, but only 62 tickets had been sold for the Collins show, Moore said.
The contract with the William Morris Agency allows the auditorium to cancel, but there will still be a cost of around $4,000. Still, Moore said, that’s better than paying the $16,500 fee to bring the artist in and taking a loss on unsold seats.
Commissioners agreed. Moore said he will instead push hard to promote the Dec. 4 performance of the Atlanta Pops Christmas Orchestra. The orchestra has performed in Cedartown several years previously and has been well-attended in the past, he said.
People who bought tickets for the Collins show will instead be offered tickets for another concert in exchange.
In related action Thursday night, the commission agreed to approve an inter-department exchange of funds. This is expected to run around $16,000.
In addition to the $4,000 needed to vacate the contract for Judy Collins, the auditorium needs $4,000 as a deposit for the Atlanta Pops show. The total cost for the orchestra (with the deposit) is $13,000, some of which should come from ticket sales.
Commissioners also talked about the future of the auditorium. The Atlanta Pops Christmas Orchestra is the last performance scheduled this year. The promotions calendar lists the next show as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, a seven-man group that performs jazz, swing, Dixieland and big-band music. They are scheduled to perform Feb. 26.
No decision has been made about these future shows.
Rumors began circulating in the community over the summer that the city auditorium was nearing a decision to close its doors. Contacted in August, Moore said there was no truth to those rumors.
Thursday night, Moore said the situation did not look so dire back in the summer.
But recent shows have not brought in the crowds, and the center’s funds have continued to be depleted “to nothing,” he said.
“Closing down wasn’t even a consideration back then,” Moore said. “It is now.”
Moore told commissioners he and members of the Cedartown Arts Commission plan to step up appeals for donations. They will also strive to schedule events that will have enough public appeal to bring in the crowds, he said.
Gauging public response has been difficult, however. Collins, whose show is to be canceled, is a well-known folk and contemporary artist whose career spans more than 40 years. That only 62 tickets had been sold through Thursday was a shock, he said.
Likewise, the most recent show, Ricky Nelson Remembered, on Nov. 13 had an audience of less than 200. A total of 215 tickets were sold for the event, which featured the classic 1960s rock and roll hits of Ricky Nelson performed by his sons, Matthew and Gunnar Nelson.