In addition, the nonprofit added a jazz festival this summer, where headliners Ellis Marsalis and Ann Hampton Callaway performed. Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie also performed on the Rockport stage this year.
Tony Beadle, the center’s executive director, said since the venue is so small, ticket prices can only pay for about half of the hall’s budget. The rest of the money, said Beadle, comes through fund-raising and gala events.
“If I had a 1,000-seat theater, the need might not be as pressing,” said Beadle, who is confident that the center will break even or make a little money this year.
In Lowell, Mill City Management has run the Lowell Memorial Auditorium since 1995. The city gives Mill City $300,000 annually, and receives 60 percent of profits that are generated. About $4 million over the last 17 years has been placed in a capital improvement account to maintain the building.
Tom McKay, one of Mill City’s owners, said he tries to book around 250 events a year, ranging from touring Broadway musicals and the Holiday Pops featuring Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra to the New England Golden Gloves boxing championships and Theresa Caputo, a psychic.
The auditorium is also known for its acoustics: James Taylor, the Kinks, and the Boys Choir of Harlem all have recorded in the Lowell hall; Bruce Springsteen chose to come to Lowell on a solo tour in 1996.
McKay also said keeping the venue booked and prices low are keys to making the business viable.
On any given week, Phish, Tony Bennett, or Lynyrd Skynyrd could be sandwiched in between a US naturalization ceremony, the Miss Massachusetts pageant, or a wrestling match.
“If people can see the same product that’s intriguing, then why go into Boston when they can come to Lowell?” McKay said.