November 30, 2012

State Theatre looks to share success

The music venue invites businesses to become sponsors, provide funds and be part of its brand.

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — It’s been a great year for the State Theatre, including its presentation of the Mumford & Sons concert in August on the Eastern Promenade, a first-of-its-kind event that drew 16,000 music fans to the sprawling city park overlooking Casco Bay.

click image to enlarge

Since its grand reopening in October 2010, the 1,450-seat State Theatre on Congress Street has hosted more than 200 concerts. Its business development manager, Michael Leonard, above, is offering sponsorships as a great opportunity for the right businesses.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Now, the management of one of southern Maine’s top live music venues hopes to capitalize on its recent success by soliciting sponsorships from Maine-based companies.

Theater executives anticipate raising more than $100,000 a year by selling tiered sponsorships ranging from a mural-painting contest for local artists to shared concert presentation rights, said Michael Leonard, the State Theatre’s business development manager.

“We’re looking for a very select number of business partners who share our vision,” Leonard said. “We plan to use the revenue to make operational and capital improvements that improve the concert-going experience and maintain the long-term viability of the venue.”

Since its grand reopening in October 2010, the 1,450-seat theater on Congress Street has hosted more than 200 concerts and 200,000 fans. Recent performers include Elvis Costello, Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, My Morning Jacket, Gillian Welch and Ben Harper. Dinosaur Jr. was on deck Thursday night, and Smashing Pumpkins is scheduled to perform Saturday night.

“(The group) Fun. performed here on Halloween and (three nights later) they were on ‘Saturday Night Live,’” Leonard said. “Here we have this beautiful venue attracting national acts. This is a significant opportunity for a quantifiable return for the right businesses.”

The theater, led by General Manager Lauren Wayne, also books acts for the Cumberland County Civic Center, the Port City Music Hall, Space Gallery and other venues in downtown Portland.

Portland’s economic development leaders recognized the State Theatre’s contribution to the business community earlier this week, making it one of three enterprises to receive the city’s 2012 Economic Development Award.

“Since it reopened two years ago, the State has had such a significant positive impact on Portland’s music scene and on the vitality of the Arts District,” said Jack Lufkin, president of the Portland Development Corp. “What a great contribution it’s made to the city of Portland.”

Theater executives are pursuing sponsorships from a variety of businesses, including banks, car dealerships, fine-beverage makers and communications companies, Leonard said. Sponsorship options will include the theater’s website, signs, walls, plaques, bars, VIP seating, ATMs, tickets and even free Wi-Fi service in the theater.

“Brand sponsorship is getting to be a lot more than just hanging up a sign,” Leonard said.

Theater executives likely will stop short of selling full naming rights, such as “FairPoint State Theatre.”

“We have to be mindful of how the community views changes like that and of preserving the integrity of the theater brand,” Leonard said.

Theater executives have already begun talking with potential sponsors, Leonard said. Sponsorships would happen incrementally through the next year.

Built in 1929, the Art Deco-style theater offers an endearing mix of original architectural features and questionable changes made through the years, including rudimentary murals displayed in the winding staircase in recent years.

Some revenue raised through corporate sponsorships likely will be used for building maintenance and improvement projects, possibly including an art contest to replace the murals with artwork more in keeping with the theater’s original decor.

“This is a very old girl,” Leonard said of the theater. “She needs a lot of love.”

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

kbouchard@pressherald.com

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