Under new management? City choosing Tower Theatre operators

Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Under new management? City choosing Tower Theatre operators
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Fresno's Tower Theatre has new ownership in the city of Fresno. And in the near future, it'll have new management as well.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno's Tower Theatre has new ownership in the city of Fresno. And in the near future, it'll have new management as well.

A contentious couple years for the Tower Theatre ended in July when the city of Fresno paid $6.5 million to take over the historic theater.

The city immediately turned to picking management and got applications from eight groups.

The area's new councilmember, Annalisa Perea, explained what the city's choice comes down to.

"We definitely want a team that has experience successfully operating theaters, but more importantly we want somebody who's going to be invested in the success of the theater on a personal level," Perea said.

Former owner and current interim manager Laurence Abbate threw his hat in the ring along with a variety of promoters, production managers, and even a realtor from Georgia.

Councilwoman Perea says community members are weighing in and a lot of them are saying they want change.

At least a few of the people who protested the proposed sale to Adventure Church say they'd like to see the Fresno Arts Council in charge.

The group doesn't have much experience in booking shows, though, unlike Team Neville.

"We've got a lot of support behind us and it's our favorite place to be," said Susan Neville.

Susan, Chester, and Jephrey Neville carried out those responsibilities at the theater for most of the 15 years before the COVID outbreak.

They say their familiarity with booking shows and running tech at the theater gives them an upper hand, but they're not sure how big of a restoration project might be waiting for them.

"There's a lot of repairs and upgrades that need to be done, but it's hard to really get into what we would do when we haven't been in the theater for almost 2 years," said Chester Neville.

Perea says the theater is generally in good shape, but maintaining its architectural and historical integrity is a top priority for new management.

Local arts lovers tell us they'd like to see more than just music and comedians at the theater.

They want to see film, theater, and dance - especially with a local flavor.

"I think that it'll offer a lot of opportunities for local artists to also come in here and be able to play at the Tower Theatre," said Jephrey Neville.

City council expects to vote on a new manager for the Tower Theatre early next year.