Famous Willows Theatre Company Seeks Debt Relief through Bankruptcy
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Famous Willows Theatre Company Seeks Debt Relief through Bankruptcy

September 5, 2012


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The Willows Theatre Company, which has provided live theater performances in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1977, is filing for bankruptcy protection, according to a report this week from the San Jose Mercury News.

Two days after its board of directors announced that the theater was closing its doors, the company filed for bankruptcy help, which could be good news for its creditors but bad news for its loyal patrons.

Sources say that patrons of Willows won’t receive refunds for their current tickets, but they will be able to use the tickets for another musical that is playing at the nearby Lesher Center for the Arts.

And the board of directors of the struggling theater company is working to arrange a similar ticket deal with other local theaters for patrons who purchased season tickets to all of the theater’s shows.

According to sources, the Willows struggled for several years with rising production costs, declining financial support from donors and foundations, and rapidly falling ticket sales due to increased competition and the recent recession.

The board’s president, Dennis Woodard, admitted that the company had tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and was forced to make “some tough decisions” when it had to cancel the remaining performances of the Henrik Ibsen play, “A Doll’s House.”

As a result of the company’s terrible financial position, it was forced to fire all of its full-time employees last week, including its managing director, its artistic director, and the members of its technical staff who keep the lights and sound equipment operating.

And these moves had been inevitable for quite some time. According to the company’s federal tax returns, the Willows had at least an $80,000 budget deficit for each of the last four years.

In 2008, at the heart of the recession, the company reportedly ran a deficit of $319,895, which nearly crippled the relatively small theater company, which had just under 2,000 season ticket holders abandon its programs in 2009.

The mass exodus of ticket holders meant that the company “just didn’t have the money to go to the end of the run,” and was forced to contact a bankruptcy attorney, according to Woodard.

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