The Beach Boys will cap off the season with a post-Labor Day performance Wednesday, but the Foellinger Theatre summer concert series is far from finished.
Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Executive Director Al Moll says this year’s series has featured its strongest lineup of national headliners, bringing in nearly $1 million in revenue so far.
“The success has almost been scary, but I will say it has created an incredible buzz around here,” Moll says.
This year’s lineup has included REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Styx and Mavis Staples, who performed this month.
Despite the Willie Nelson cancellation this summer, nearly sold-out acts like the Beach Boys and ZZ Top join Los Lobos this fall, extending the schedule into October.
Moll says if the change goes over well enough with audiences, the park could possibly open in mid-May and extend the series to mid-October next year.
“We’re selling out, so our challenge now is trying to expand our seating and that’s going to be difficult,” he says. “We’re hoping to add 100 more seats next year by taking out a part of the stage and moving it up, but we’ll see.
“You don’t want to change your success model too much – you don’t want to get too greedy.”
The theater’s model is based on an age-demographic strategy put into place nearly six years ago. Moll says the park initially billed concerts targeted toward baby boomers from the ’60s, and in the more recent years, the series has transitioned to the ’70s and ’80s.
“The next test we want to do is maybe try to bring in a younger demographic,” Moll says. “We haven’t dealt with the 30-, 40-year-olds. We can cross over a generation and make that attempt, but I don’t think it would be our primary focus, but eventually that’s going to be the market.
“We got to change a little, and you know, the performers that we’re bringing in aren’t going to be around forever.”
Outside of being aware of their market, Moll says he owes some of the success to working with promoters – particularly Pacific Coast Concerts in South Bend.
Moll says the company brought in REO Speedwagon, Styx, the Beach Boys and ZZ Top, while Foellinger booked Foreigner.
He adds that without Pacific Coast, the theater would have been able to bring maybe two of the headliners this year.
Not only do promoters help bring bigger names, Moll explains that since promoters get the ticket revenue, the risk of paying performers for a low-attendance show is on the promoter rather than Foellinger.
It takes a lot of the risk away,” Moll says. “We’re getting calls from promoters all over the country now. So I’ll meet with more this year going into next year, but we have a good relationship with Pacific Coast Concerts and when things are going well, you want to stay with a winning team.”
Moll says that working with promoters for a few concerts out of the Foellinger’s schedule does not threaten the park’s self-sustaining functions.
The theater still receives some of the revenue through its technical support and rental fees for the theater and box office.
Moll says that after calculating expenses, he estimates Foellinger will net $100,000 for the theater’s reserve, a safeguard organizers can use to cover costs if a show doesn’t go as well as promised.
Moll says he can only see the series getting better as they go forward.
“I (would) love to bring in the Doobie Brothers, maybe someone like James Taylor, Hall and Oates – and I need some help with some of the younger groups,” he says. “I would welcome any input. Give us your thoughts, and we’ll make a run for what the community wants.
“As long as it gets people out there, that’s the name of the game.”