Heather Walker, a “star circle” theater donor, put it diplomatically: “Interesting shake up at the Paramount.”
In a Facebook post directed at the Paramount—the Downtown Mall theater that underwent a $16 million renovation and reopened in 2004—Walker documented a recent round of layoffs that followed the hiring of new executive director Chris Eure and board chair Mark Giles, who resigned from the board of the Virginia National Bank in December. At the Paramount, those terminated include general manager Mary Beth Aungier and marketing director Tami Keaveny, who both declined comment for this story.
The Paramount Theater lost its general manager and marketing director following a December change in leadership. (File Photo)
Since its reopening, the Paramount has seen a few changes in leadership. After shepherding the building through its renovation, executive director Chad Hershner resigned. He was succeeded by Ed Rucker, who left after less than a year. Not long after Rucker’s departure, the Paramount inked a management agreement with SMG, the venue management company that oversees the John Paul Jones Arena, as well as convention centers, theaters and performing arts facilities around the country.
The same time period saw some rocky financials for the two nonprofit organizations that own and operate the theater. According to tax exemption filings for Fiscal Year 2010, the Paramount Theater Foundation’s net assets dropped by more than $600,000 due mainly to a decline in grants. During the same year, The Paramount Theater of Charlottesville, Inc., a second nonprofit, saw increases in grants and program revenue. However, total liabilities still outpaced assets by $590,377.
Shortly after the Paramount brought in Eure and Giles and renewed its contract with SMG for another two years, Aungier and Keaveny were let go. In an interview, Eure told C-VILLE that the Paramount is “on sound financial footing” and has performed “quite well” in the past six months. However, she also said she analyzed operations and looked for places to streamline. The two jobs she found were marketing and general management, where Eure’s responsibilities as executive director overlapped with Aungier’s job in some responsibilities.
“I was technically not even allowed in on the notice that was given to them,” said Eure. “It was all done corporately through SMG.” Dolly Vogt, SMG Richmond’s regional general manager, attended those meetings, but did not return a reporter’s call for this story.
Jay Ferguson, former board chair and current treasurer, reiterated the Paramount’s improved financial footing, but did not tie a number to the comment. “In this current year, we’re going to show some progress in some longer term goals which I think will be exciting,” said Ferguson.
If numbers stayed consistent with FY2010 filings, then the theater foundations retain millions in assets. Generally speaking, business operations can fluctuate with the market, or with demand for tickets, or with new organizational goals, or all of the above. Additionally, theater donor Mary Helen Jessup donated her Glenmore home, assessed at $526,400, to the Paramount foundation in May 2011, so the theater might sell the house and reap the benefits. The listing was removed from real estate sites, which suggests a pending sale. However, if that money might’ve retained staff, then it didn’t arrive in time.