The theatre, which was $411,000 behind on its rent and utility bills, was approved for the loan Dec. 17. That same day it was decided that the board would stop funding the Artisphere theatre and close it at the end of June.
The Washington Post reported that the company was loaned $5 million at one percent interest, allowing the theatre company to operate rent free until the 19-year loan is paid back. Approximately $411,000 in overdue taxes and utility bills was forgiven.
A publicist for Signature told Playbill.com that an additional $2.7 million was given as a gift from the original lender. Though the company had debts, Signature was never in danger of closing its doors. Rather, the money was given to build a "new financial structure."
A Signature rep told Playbill, "This new lease and loan deal serves both Signature Theatre and Arlington County moving forward, ensuring Signature's long-term sustainability as an economic and cultural anchor for a thriving Arlington neighborhood, Shirlington Village. This plan gives Signature more freedom to invest its resources into the theatre's mission: to continue to present world premiere plays and musicals and maintain free education and outreach programs that engage the area's increasingly diverse population and target those traditionally underserved by the arts."
According to the Post, although the Signature draws about 100,000 people each year, its financial struggles began during the economic downturn of 2008. Signature managing director Maggie Boland said that ticket prices could not be raised or else it would push audience members away and added that fundraising and budget cuts would not be enough to offset the theatre's debt burden and overhead. Efforts to raise money from donors and grants are ongoing; she's attempted to cut costs since she arrived in May 2008. The financial save reduces Signature's annual debt payments from $1 million to approximately $300,000.
Boland said, "For the board and staff, this is going to be transformative — it's going to change Signature forever for the better. It means we are on solid financial footing."
Chairman Jay Fisette was promised by Boland that the loan would be paid "in full and on time."
Signature Theatre's world premiere of Diner, the musical adaptation of the film of the same name, began performances at the Virginia venue Dec. 9, prior to an official opening Dec. 27.
Directed and choreographed by three-time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall, performances will continue through Jan. 25, 2015. Diner has a book by the movie's Academy Award-winning screenwriter and director Barry Levinson and an original score by nine-time Grammy Award winner Sheryl Crow.