Surflight Theatre, a non-profit professional theatre and one of the largest employers on Long Beach Island, has been a cultural institution on LBI since founder Joseph P. Hayes set up shop as an open-air performance venue in Beach Haven Crest in 1950.
Surflight Theatre's present long-term debt totals $2.6 million. Today, over $400,000 a year is needed to support facility operating costs of the Surflight campus' five buildings.
Being a non-profit company, Surflight was dependent on grants, sponsorships, donations and the support of the community through purchasing tickets and subscriptions. However, donations and ticket sales have declined. The theatre filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in 2011, but rising costs along with decreasing donations and ticket sales have driven the company to close its doors.
In a letter to patrons, donors and volunteers, the Surflight Board of Trustees said, "This was an extremely difficult decision, and it was not made without trying every possible action to save the theatre we all love. Over the past few months, the trustees and Surflight staff have worked tirelessly to improve the theatre’s financial condition through a variety of means, including appeals for emergency funding, seeking refinancing of our burdensome debt and making cost reductions. Unfortunately, these efforts were unsuccessful."
Among various efforts, the theatre began a campaign in October 2014 to raise $600,000 to finish out the year and launch a 2015 season, but it was not successful. Besides ongoing financial challenges, the theatre suffered from a fire in 2012, followed by extensive damage to the theatre from Super Storm Sandy. Insurance and FEMA reimbursements were below replacement costs. In addition, Surflight attendance the summer after Sandy was well below average as the Long Beach Island area recovered from the storm.
Surflight Theatre alum include David Hartman, Richard Kind, Ed Dixon, Jim Brochu, James Brennan, Iris Rainer Dart, Charlotte D'Amboise, David Loud, Seth Rudetsky, Michael Ritchie, Lorin Latarro, Jill Abramowitz, Dale Badway, Leah Horowitz and Steve Rosen, among others.