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The Flame Theatre in Wells keeping its cheap seats

By Staff | Feb 2, 2014

It looks like the Flame Theatre in Wells will still be the cheapest seats around at least for another year.

Last Monday, the Wells City Council decided not to increase ticket prices from $3 to $4 for 2014.

The proposed pricing increase was discussed during the 2014 budget process; the council debated raising ticket prices to generate additional revenue for the theatre so the budget would balance, according to city administrator Robin Leslie.

“The theater has had issues in past years paying for all of their expenses. In the past, the city was OK with covering some of their expenses like building insurance, building maintenance, utilities, etc.,” Leslie says. “In 2013, they would have broken even if not for the installation of the new air conditioning. They ended the year with a $20,430 deficit.”

The Flame Theatre board will need to come up with ways to offset their deficit on their own, the council decided.

In the past, the city was comfortable letting the theater operate with a deficit, but going forward, due to the times we live in, it is important for the theater to cover their own expenses, at minimum, according to Leslie.

“It would also be nice for them to be able to generate extra revenues that could then be saved for building upgrades and future maintenance,” Leslie adds.

Some ideas to generate extra revenue were discussed at the last theater board meeting held on Jan. 15.

Board member Nate Nasinec brought up the idea of running a Saturday matinee.

The board also discussed the possibility of showing a movie on Christmas and New Years Eve. Another idea was eliminating pre-movie trivia to make room for more advertisements.

The theater board could raise concession prices, do special events, have fundraisers, or create extra showtimes, Leslie points out.

The council and the theater board will review how 2014 went and assess if ticket prices will need to be increased for 2015.

Council members agreed the theater board will need to work closely with Leslie regarding budget information.

“It will be my job to work with the board and advise them they will need to operate within their budget and come up with ways to offset their deficit for 2014,” she says.

Theatre board president, Ron Hartman, believes the Flame Theatre is “the jewel of Wells.”

“In 2013, we had a record year for attendance,” Hartman told council members at their Jan. 13 meeting. “We had 27,324 visitors last year and a lot of the customers were from out-of-town.”

Council member Ann Marie Schuster believes the theater is an amenity to the town.

“People love the Flame Theatre,” she says. “We can deal with a 10 percent deficit of their entire operating budget. The board will be responsible for producing extra revenue if they want their prices to stay at $3.”