Monday, March 18, 2013

Austin Statesman's Gary Dinges Reports Closure of the Silver Spur Theatre, Salado

It's ironic that picked up this short article about the closing of the Silver Spur Theatre, Salado from the Austin Statesman's business page and circulated it nation-wide.

 A search of the Statesman establishes that other than occasional mention in arts events listings, the paper has published only three articles about the Silver Spur: this one about the closing, an elegiac March 2 photo essay by Andy Sharp, and a November, 2012 piece about a Christmas radio play. 

Austin Live Theatre published 36 'upcoming' pages for the theatre over the past four years, drawn from the extensive releases crafted by Preston Kirk.

By the way, the Silver Spur wasn't a 'community' theatre. It did indeed serve a community, but it wasn't an amateur outfit. The Spur was the enterprise of a handful of hard working artist-entrepreneurs who didn't manage to find a way to attract enough customers to keep the lights on.

Austin Statesman

Grainger Esch Silver Spur Salado Andy Sharp
(photo: Andy Sharp)

  Salado community theater shutting down

By Gary Dinges, American-Statesman Staff
Business section, March 18, 2013

A community theater in Salado has fallen on tough times and will close its doors for good at the end of this month.

While Silver Spur Theater’s attendance and revenue have grown since it opened in 2004, co-owner Grainger Esch said rising expenses have made it financially unfeasible for the venue to remain open.

The theater, home to a variety of Vaudeville-style shows, film screenings and live music, garnered national attention in 2008 when it hosted a wedding rehearsal after-party for Jenna Bush, daughter of former President George W. Bush.

“It’s just not sustainable,” Esch said. “The locals in Salado always thought this was a good thing to have, but there aren’t enough people to support it.”

Salado, which is about an hour north of Austin in Bell County, had 2,161 residents as of July 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Out-of-towners helped boost business during peak tourism periods – spring, summer and the holiday season – but at other times of the year there were more than a few empty seats, Esch said.

“We needed tourism traffic to help this work, and there hasn’t been as much as we’d hoped,” he said.

In a bit of irony, the Silver Spur’s final production, “Schtick Happens,” sold out this month, according to Esch, and encore presentations were added.

“It was great, a joy,” he said. “Everyone had a blast.”

A few private events are scheduled to take place at the Silver Spur through the remainder of March, then Esch will begin selling off props and other items to theater groups elsewhere. Anything not sold will likely be auctioned, he said.

While the theater’s closure might be unfortunate, a Salado hotelier said he doesn’t expect it to significantly impact other businesses in the area.

“Tourists would come here to do other stuff, then wind up there – not the other way around,” said Rob Petro, owner of the Inn at Salado. “It was more of a distraction than a destination for most of them.”

While the Silver Spur is gone for now, Esch said he expects theater will one day return to Salado.

“It’s been a good run,” he said. “I’m proud of what we did, and I’ve got a good outlook about what’s ahead.”

Grainger Esch (photo: Andy Sharp via Austin Statesman)
Grainger Esch (photo: Andy Sharp)

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