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City of Fort Pierce will soon begin search for third party to operate historic Sunrise Theatre

'We cannot continue to afford to keep pumping money into the theatre,' said one resident
Sunrise theater.PNG
Posted at 10:00 PM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 23:42:28-04

FORT PIERCE, Fla.  — City commissioners met on Tuesday to discuss the future of the historic Sunrise Theatre located in the heart of downtown.

According to city documents, the theatre, nearly a century old, has been operating in the red for the past five years for a total loss of more than 1.6 million dollars.

"We cannot continue to afford to keep pumping money into the theatre," said Holly Theuns, a downtown resident.

Commissioners decided Tuesday to begin a search for a third-party entity to manage theatre operations.

"Those people are professionals and their staging, and their equipment, they run theatres and that's their business," said Theuns.

Currently, the historic landmark is owned and operated by the city and costs $60,000 each month just for expenses and without any shows.

"I haven't been to a show here in 10 years," said Theuns. "The musicians that they bring in are tribute bands. That's what fits on stage and that doesn't necessarily fit with everyone's interest."

"For us, it would be impactful if it went away," said Tim Gunther, Florida Hemp Collective co-owner.

Gunther said the theatre needs to book acts for a wider demographic.

"From my perspective, it's just a matter of can they attract both young and old in the theatre and I think just rethinking that strategy would be helpful to them if and when they get back to full capacity," said Gunther.

Commissioners decided they will appoint members to the Sunrise Theatre Advisory Board at their next meeting scheduled for early April.

The board currently only has five members but has 14 total seats.

Theuns said after Tuesday's meeting, she wants to be part of the change.

"I see an opportunity for change and the fact that someone stated nothing has happened in the past, doesn't mean nothing is going to happen in the future."

City officials said they do also plan to apply for federal grants from the CARES Act and the Save our Stages Act, both of which were approved in the latest COVID-19 relief bill.