Theater impact

Brisk business reported downtown on show nights

More than 30,000 people have attended concerts, live shows, plays and motion picture events at the Peoples Bank Theatre since the renovated movie house opened its doors in January 2016.

But the theater isn’t the only Marietta business to benefit from those 30,000-plus visitors.

“We’ve seen a definite increase in business due to the theater’s opening,” said Branden Chambers, a server at the Austyn’s restaurant on Front Street.

“On show nights many people will call in reservations ahead of time to have dinner an hour-and-a-half before the show,” he said. “The theater has had a definite impact here.”

A block away another Front Street eatery, Over the Moon Pub & Pizza, also realizes an uptick in orders during Peoples Bank Theatre events.

“We’ve had some of that business. Some of the performers have called for pizza, too,” said pizzeria associate Kathy Marconi.

Over on Second Street, it was the same story from Nancy Kroft with Marietta Wine Cellars, who said folks in town to attend the theater often visit the wine shop on Fridays before the show.

And Richie Harris, who mans the ovens at The Original Pizza Place on Second Street, about a block from the Peoples Bank Theatre, has noticed more business on show days.

“We do get a rush of business at those times,” he said. “It depends on what’s playing, but we usually see a rush before and after the shows.”

Harris said the restaurant has also hosted some cast parties following the theater’s shows.

Some downtown Marietta shops are also seeing more foot traffic on theater nights.

“We saw people coming through when the River Cities Symphony was playing at the theater,” said Becky Johnston at Schafer Leather on Front Street.

She said theater-goers as well as some of the orchestra’s musicians came into the shop.

And Jenny Wilson at The Cook’s Shop on Front Street said a group of visitors from out of town were impressed with the variety of small shops in the downtown area.

“When Tanya Tucker was (at the theater) a whole group came in,” Wilson said. “They stopped by and made some purchases while waiting on the show to start.”

Hunt Brawley, executive director for the Peoples Bank Theatre and Hippodrome/Colony Historical Theatre Association, said helping to draw more people and businesses into downtown Marietta has always been among the goals of reopening the nearly 100-year-old facility.

“We’ll be spending a lot of time this year on promoting the resurrection of business, especially in this block of Putnam Street,” he said, noting Putnam Street, from Front to Fourth Street, was once lined with a variety of stores and shops.

In addition to the sales of more than 30,000 tickets to Peoples Theatre events in the last year, Brawley noted that there have been some non-ticketed events held at the facility, which may account for approximately 10,000 additional people served at the theater.

Those non-ticketed events include Gov. John Kasich’s 2016 State of the State Address and public presentations regarding the local opioid epidemic that were well attended.

“We would like to see more hard numbers and a little more feedback related to the increase in traffic at downtown businesses on show nights,” Brawley said, adding that the theater will be working with groups like Marietta Main Street in an attempt to better track those figures.

“We’re also hoping to hit some more high-end acts in the coming year, like Travis Tritt and the Charlie Daniels Band,” he said.

Both shows were a big draw for the theater last year.

Big screen showings of classics like “The Wizard of Oz,” “White Christmas” and the upcoming screening of “Dr. Zhivago” have also been popular, Brawley said.

“‘The Wizard of Oz’ has been shown many times on television over the years, but seeing it on the big screen is a completely different experience,” he said.

Marietta Development Director Andy Coleman said he had no doubt about the Peoples Bank Theatre’s impact on the downtown area.

“From our end, we have seen a couple of new business interests since the theater reopened,” he said. “And since then we’ve had two businesses apply for a revitalization district license. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

Food service businesses that are located within the city’s downtown revitalization district and that meet certain requirements can apply for a discounted state liquor license that allows them to offer alcoholic beverages to customers.

“There are some excellent opportunities for others in the revitalization district, too,” Coleman said.

He said as word gets out about the Peoples Bank Theatre and the top-notch entertainment offered there, more interest should  be generated in the downtown area.

“And that will hopefully draw more economic development,” Coleman added.

He noted the city of Marietta has dedicated a portion of its Community Development Block Grant funding for several years to the Peoples Bank Theatre development project, including support for the facility’s Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant restrooms and an upcoming ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp project to provide better accessibility to the theater.

Measuring the impact

in Marietta

¯ The Peoples Bank Theatre brought at least 30,000 people into downtown Marietta since its opening in January 2016, according to ticket sales figures.

¯ But theater officials say non-ticketed events like Gov. John Kasich’s State of the State Address and others have probably drawn another 10,000 people throughout the year.

¯ Visitors who make a day trip to attend an event in Marietta or Washington County will spend an average $112 on tickets, meals and fuel.

¯ Overnight visitors spend an average $341 during a stay in the Pioneer City.

Source: Peoples Bank Theatre, Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and TourismOhio.