MILLVILLE — Levoy Theatre officials announced Monday a partnership with a longstanding Cumberland County theater group for seven shows of “Les Miserables” later this year.
While the announcement may involve only seven performances by the Cumberland Players, it represents what Levoy officials said is a growing attempt to build community partnerships to boost attendance.
Philip Van Embden, acting chairman of the Levoy Theatre Preservation Society, said the theater drew 10,000 customers to 48 shows between Sept. 9 and Dec. 9. That puts attendance just a little below what Levoy officials estimated they would draw during the initial few months after the theater’s reopening, he said.
“We’re very happy with that,” he said.
The Levoy’s goal is to have 60,000 customers this year, a figure that would exceed the official 50,000-customer projection, said Vincent Bianca, who became director of theater operations in December.
Bianca and other Levoy officials said Monday they believe they can reach that goal by offering a more diverse entertainment schedule with acts that range from Chinese acrobats to comics to internationally known zookeeper Jack Hanna. Bianca said the theater also plans to tap into the growing Christian rock scene. A show by the Christian rock band Jars of Clay sold out last year, theater officials said.
Two weeks ago, they announced a partnership with Vineland-based Tower Hospitality. The agreement provides Levoy customers and artists with discounts at Tower Hospitality restaurants and lodging establishments that include a Days Inn, Wingate by Wyndham, Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn & Suites and a Denny’s, all in Vineland.
Van Embden said the Levoy is talking with other companies about additional food and lodging partnerships. He said the theater hopes to make announcements regarding those agreements soon.
Theater officials said they also want to tap into another potential customer pool — the New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Levoy officials will meet with park representatives soon to discuss giving theater tours to various racing groups, Van Embden said. Those tours could lead to visits by park customers, he said.
Closed since 1974, the Levoy Theatre reopened Sept. 9 after an $8.5 million renovation. City officials and local business leaders hope the Levoy will develop into an attraction that draws customers not only to the theater, but to the struggling downtown business and arts districts on High Street.
Van Embden said Monday that some downtown businesses are staying open late to catch some business from theater customers.
The theater is also booking acts that it can afford, which means shows are sometimes held during the middle of the week, he said. That is nonetheless dumping hundreds more people onto High Street at times when sidewalks could be empty, he said.
Van Embden said the Levoy is, as much as possible, tracking its customer base by zip code.
The tracking shows that about 60 percent of customers come from outside the local area, with pockets of theatergoers in Atlantic, Cape May, Gloucester and Camden counties, he said. About 15 percent to 20 percent of the Levoy’s customers live in neighboring Vineland, he said.
Formed almost seven decades ago, the Vineland-based Cumberland Players perform in the 143-seat The Little Theater on Sherman Avenue.
Cumberland Players President Michael Blandino said his theater company approached Levoy officials last year about using their facility because The Little Theater is just too small for “Les Miserables.”
“Moving our production to a larger theater, with its amenities, allows us to bring “Les Miserables” to a larger audience,” Blandino said. “We are very pleased to join with the Levoy and hope to work with them in the future.”
The Cumberland Players production of “Les Miserables” is scheduled for Sept. 6, 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15.
The Levoy already has a house theater company in the Off Broad Street Players.
Van Embden said the agreement with the Cumberland Players will not affect the status of the Off Broad Street Players.
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