LaFortune: Who manages San Jose’s theaters?
The California Theatre is one of several venues managed by Team San Jose. Photo courtesy of Team San Jose.

Recently, San Jose Theaters received a letter from a patron of the California Theatre. It wasn’t a fan letter.

As a matter of fact, it was a letter questioning Team San Jose—the venue management company for the theaters and the agency responsible for marketing San Jose—and seeking to ensure the organization wasn’t taking advantage of the arts agency hosting the event in the theater.

The letter recounted an interaction with a staff member from the group holding the event. The event attendee noticed the concessions line and asked if the arts organization received any of the proceeds from beverage sales. The letter stated emphatically that the answer was no.

It also alleged benefits to Team San Jose, including organizational promotion and direct financial gain. The letter erroneously pointed out that Team San Jose needed the help because it only had 35 Facebook followers. The letter requested monetary support for the arts organization that they felt had been mistreated, in the form of a direct donation, and questioned the veracity of Team San Jose’s mission.

While the letter was filled with false assumptions, its concerns provide this opportunity to address a few things about the city-owned theaters managed by Team San Jose: California Theatre, Center for Performing Arts, Montgomery Theater and San Jose Civic.

As acknowledged in the letter, Team San Jose’s mission is to “promote San Jose as a destination and stimulate economic development that benefits our community.” To understand how we achieve this is to first understand the unique structure.

Team San Jose is a nonprofit organization and holds two city contracts. One is to be the official destination marketing organization as the tourism brand, Visit San Jose. The other is to be the venue management company that oversees both the San Jose McEnery Convention Center and the San Jose Theaters collection. This includes the California Theatre, where the aforementioned arts agency has called home for more than 20 years.

Collectively, the San Jose theaters operate at a loss. The cost of workers and maintaining historical buildings, such as the California Theatre, far outpace what the collective theater venues can bring in via sales. The integrated Team San Jose structure allows Team San Jose to support theater operating costs with the convention center side of the business. This keeps the costs as low as possible for nonprofit cultural partners to use our venues.

San Jose’s theaters are open house facilities, meaning the venues are available to all production houses. The financial subsidy helps to bring a variety of diverse shows to the venues and keeps arts partners in the city. These partners directly benefit from the assistance with special rates and rental fees, priority event scheduling to secure programming dates and additional staffing levels with no additional fees.

Further, the Visit San Jose division of our organization elevates the reputation of San Jose and positions the city as a desirable arts destination through marketing and PR efforts. This work benefits arts partners, in many ways, at no additional cost to them.

Our owned media platforms support them by providing access to the growing audience interested in San Jose activities. Visit San Jose’s social media accounts—@visitsanjose on all platforms—have a combined total of more than 77,000 followers. Our consumer newsletter reaches  80,000 followers. We also maintain a citywide online events calendar on sanjose.org. We highlight featured events on our homepage and through fly-in banners throughout the site.

The event cited in the letter had been a rotating featured event on the site since August and was featured in a seasonal promotional campaign as an anchor event. These marketing activations occur free of charge and are in addition to any promotions organized by each production company. We do this for partner programming in the facilities we manage, and this is another of the benefits of our two city contracts.

Lastly, Team San Jose stimulates travel and tourism to enhance public life and reduce the tax burden on all San Jose households. All revenue earned goes back to the city. We are a jobs creation engine for San Jose families, with seven union bargaining agreements represented in Team San Jose managed facilities.

It bears repeating: Team San Jose partners with local arts agencies to best, and most strategically, serve our mission as an economic driver for the city. It is my great hope that the patron’s and your next visit to these theaters comes with a new understanding for the behind-the-curtain collaborations that occur for all productions to take place.

San José Spotlight columnist John LaFortune is the president and CEO of Team San Jose, the nonprofit parent company of Visit San Jose, the city’s official destination marketing organization. Team San Jose also manages the San Jose McEnery Convention Center and entertainment venues including the California Theatre, the Center for Performing Arts, Montgomery Theater and San Jose Civic. Contact John at [email protected].

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