Despite $2.5 million loss during pandemic, Warner Theater presses on and reopens

Photo via Warner Theater's Facebook page.
Photo via Warner Theater's Facebook page.

TORRINGTON — Rufus L de Rham remembers when he was named executive director of The Warner Theater back in February 2020.
“I started this job thinking ‘Wow! I am just going to go right into it!’” de Rham told The Winsted Phoenix. “Then, we closed due to the pandemic.”
More than one year later, The Warner Theater is finally re-opening once again with programs and events scheduled during the summer and fall seasons.
While de Rham said that he is happy that the theater is re-opening, the organization had to deal with several losses during the pandemic.
“During the last 16 months, we lost $2.5 million,” de Rham said. “We did receive a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant from the federal government that will help us. I think it will take a little while for the theater to recover from the impact of the pandemic, but I think we will be okay. We still need support as we grow and we try to bring back the vibrancy and life to downtown Torrington.”
The theater first opened on August 19, 1931, at 68 to 82 Main Street and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In a previous interview, de Rham said that the organization had to lay off its staff during the pandemic.
“We are still not back yet at our full staff capacity,” he said. “We are still navigating a full return to staffing as we ramp up operations. The nature of how we are doing things has now changed, and we’re just trying to navigate that as we get federal and hopefully state funding as we open.”
He said that the theater will open with each performance and program at full capacity.
“But we are still suggesting that people wear masks, especially if you are not vaccinated,” de Rham said. “We generally think it’s safer wearing masks, but we will abide by all state guidelines.”
Over the past few weeks, the organization has held its summer art sessions.
“The look on the kids’ faces when they have been coming back to these sessions is incredible,” de Rham said. “We have limited each session to 30 kids, and it’s like even the kids missed coming to the theater.”
The Warner Theater Company will be part of the Northwest Arts Council’s Litchfield Hills Creative Arts festival on Saturday, Aug. 14 with a free performance of “The Stinky Cheese Man.”
The next day, on Sunday, Aug. 15, the theater will hold the Northwest Vocal Showcase, presented by the city’s Park and Recreation committee.
Then on Saturday, Aug. 28, the theater will hold its 90th-anniversary celebration.
But for the Warner Theater to continue for another 90 years, de Rham said that it needs community support.
“If you can’t make it to a performance, donations are always important,” he said. “Also, sharing the word about the theater and sharing our posts on Facebook. Tell your family and friends about what we are doing. We are also always looking for volunteers, including people to help us.”
De Rham added that he is thankful for the community’s support, especially during the pandemic.
“To me, the Warner is the heart of Torrington and the Northwest Corner,” he said. “It brings the community together with its performances. It also has a strong educational component that helps to nurture the next generation of artists and creative thinkers. I am hopeful that I will see a lot of people back in the theater and I am looking forward to seeing all of them.”

For more information about The Warner Theater and its programs go to its website at warnertheatre.org or its Facebook page at facebook.com/warnertheatrect

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