West Hollywood's Celebration Theatre closed in July after its rent increased and it had to start paying utilities. Their current production, Philip Dawkins' The Homosexuals, is now being performed in the Atwater Village neighborhood.
"All of a sudden we're at like $7,500 a month just to open the door. It was just too much for us to keep spending in that location," Michael Kricfalusi, Celebration's executive director, told Backstage.com.
Open Fist Theatre Company also left its performing space in July due to rent increasing to $12,000 a month. In 2006, when the company moved into its space, the rent was $8,000, artistic director Martha Demson told Backstage.
Also contributing to the problem is the Actors' Equity Association's Los Angeles 99-seat theatre plan, which allows small theatres to cast Equity members without having to pay them the union's required level of compensation, according to Demson.
Equity doesn't "readily recognize spaces as 99-seat theatres," Demson said in an interview with Backstage. "So if you can get Equity to recognize a space as a 99-seat theatre, it's sort of an invitation to the landlord to raise the price, because those kinds of spaces are sought after... What this 99-seat plan has actually done is enrich landlords and few others. It's sort of an unintended consequence." Rents are determined by the market, not the theatre actors union, according to Equity.
"Landlords determine the rent based on what they believe their property can command and what the market will bear," spokesperson Maria Somma said in an email that was published in Backstage. "Equity looks at the safe and sanitary conditions of theaters, thereby ensuring an appropriate work environment for its members but does not give approval on how a real estate property is used."