News - Joliet and Will County

Joliet backs Rialto to assure upcoming shows go on

The upcoming shows at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet will go on, after city officials provided a guarantee that performers would be paid.

JOLIET – The city of Joliet on Wednesday provided a guarantee that performers in four upcoming shows at the Rialto Square Theatre will get paid.

The city took the measure to assure performers and ticket buyers that the shows will go on despite recent financial problems at the Rialto, City Manager Jim Hock said.

The city stepped in after promoters for the shows contacted the Rialto seeking a guarantee of payment in light of the theater's financial issues, Hock said.

Meanwhile, a special City Council meeting also has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday to discuss a Rialto intergovernmental agreement that could add some stability to the theater’s future.

Hock said the guarantee given to promoters Wednesday does not involve any advance payments to performers, only assurances that the acts will get paid.

He said the exact payments due to the performers are difficult to determine because of the complexity of entertainment contracts, some of which include hotel stays, royalties and assorted percentages of ticket sales.

"This is a strange industry," Hock said. "Each of these contracts is different."

But Hock said he was sure the city would be able to cover entertainers' fees, if the Rialto could not, with the remaining $440,000 budgeted for Joliet's contribution to the theater this year.

"The goal is that these performances go on," he said. "That's what we're working on, so there's an assurance that these shows go on."

The letter was provided to three promoters for the following shows:

• "Comedy Party Featuring Pauly Shore, Harland Williams, Tom Green & Bobby Lee" on April 7

• "Jeff Foxworthy & Larry The Cable Guy – We’ve Been Thinking Tour” on April 8

• "Sesame Street Live – Make a New Friend" on April 20

• Vince Gill on May 5.

The city’s guarantee comes during a week in which the Rialto board has put General Manager Randy Green on paid leave while lawyers work on a separation agreement. Green’s likely departure comes as the Rialto faces financial problems that include about $120,000 in late payments on payroll taxes.

Rialto board Chairman Dan Vera said he was "very appreciative of the city's willingness to provide near-term support."

Just how much support the city wants to provide may be apparent at the Monday meeting.

Hock said the terms of an intergovernmental agreement with the Rialto have not been settled. But the meeting is being held for council members to consider the city's commitment to the Rialto, he said.

"The mayor and the majority of the council want the Rialto to succeed," he said.

But the city also is looking for assurances "that the Rialto is not going to be in the same situation at the end of the year," he said.

The council last week delayed a Rialto request to release the April installment of the city’s quarterly payment to the theater early for payment of payroll taxes.

Council members contacted Wednesday said they agreed with city support to ensure that scheduled shows run as planned.

"The shows are sold out, and we can't afford to cancel the shows," Councilman Michael Turk said. "I think we need to make sure those performances go on."

Councilman Jim McFarland said he was told that about $200,000 in ticket sales were at risk if the shows were canceled. The Rialto's financial predicament would be worsened if that money had to be refunded.

"The show must go on," McFarland said. "But after that, we need to definitely have an audit of their finances."

McFarland said a financial review by Joliet accounting firm Theobald Associates, which was approved by the Rialto board this week, may be sufficient to show the theater’s condition.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News