Lincoln Theatre to Remain Open

Unlike the words Langston Hughes once used in his poem “Lincoln Theatre,” the movies won’t end.

For the past 24 months the Lincoln Theatre has struggled with financial sustainability and still does. Yet it will not be closing, but is in a state of dire financial struggle. At the press conference held Thursday afternoon, it was confirmed that the theatre is in need of operating funds from the District to keep the doors open past the end of the calendar year.

However, the theatre may not be getting the city funding that it needs and has scheduled a meeting with the mayor to resolve these issues.

Rick Lee, a board member of the U Street Foundation Board which operates the theatre, explained the frustration the theatre is going through.

“We found out that there is $89 million to be [divided] up across the city [for operation funding], and we’re not going to be getting any of it,” said Lee.

According to the board, the mayor has not responded to the request they put forth and the theatre must continue its struggle to maintain sustainability in the constant economic crisis affecting them.

Cynthia Robinson, another board member, stressed how important the resources they get later on in the year are. “In order for a public theatre owned by the District to operate effectively, it must have committed resources to support the operations,” Robinson said.

Robinson detailed how they have been getting the money in the past, saying that they receive their own revenue, rentals, fundraising and finally District funding for operations.

“Most of the money we get is going to go straight to keeping the doors open,” said Robinson. However, there is a staff that must be provided for and also monthly payments to be added in.

The average annual budget for the theatre is $1.7 million and their general monthly operating expenses come out to $60,000 per month. The cash on hand for them as of now is $50,000.

These problems could impact the theatre in different and drastic ways including: the ability to leave the doors open until the end of the year, the power to stage some shows and the inability to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Lincoln Theatre.

Council member Jim Graham of Ward 1 made an appearance at the conference and gave his assurance that the theatre will continue with its doors open. “We are hopeful that once we meet with the mayor, we can discuss a new system and new governance of reconsideration of these [funding] issues. That way we can assure the people that this theatre will continue to function,” Graham said.


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