Orpheum Theater leaders at odds over possible changes

Orpheum Theater employees are at odds with college leaders about whether drastic changes in programming are already planned for the Main Street institution.

Chris Duree, chancellor of the Iowa Valley Community College District which operates the facility, said things will have to operate differently going into the future as the theater has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past three years.

Duree said rumors going around about there being concrete plans for changes soon are unfounded.

“No final decisions have been made whatsoever,” he said.

However, Orpheum Director Pip Gordon said there have been decisions already made by college leaders on the theater’s operation. She said she had a meeting with Duree and other college leaders on May 23 when they detailed directives given to Duree by Iowa Valley Board President Conrad Dejardin. According to Gordon, those directives included vendoring out the coffee shop by Jan. 1, outsourcing the movie house to Iowa Valley Continuing Education and having the Orpheum staff focused on being more academic-centric and be “full of students.”

“These directives were not given to me as ideas or concepts for discussion,” Gordon wrote in an email to the Times-Republican. “These directives were issued due to the financial burden the present Orpheum programs have created for IVCCD.”

Gordon said she shared the information from this meeting with her staff.

Dejardin said the issues mentioned by Gordon are being looked at, but there have just been conversations and not decisions. He said Gordon is “jumping to conclusions.”

“There is a concern because of the financial situation,” Dejardin said.

Further, he said no decisions about the Orpheum are slated for the upcoming Iowa Valley board meeting on Wednesday.

“There’s absolutely nothing on the agenda related to the Orpheum,” Duree said.

Duree did confirm the college district may look into outsourcing the coffee shop’s operation, or taking a different approach to the shop. Weekly movies are not going away, but in the future they could take a different form than they are now.

“We need to re-evaluate what movies are being shown and how often,” Duree said.

When the 2006 bond issue was passed, the $3 million Orpheum renovation was expected to include more academic areas for Marshalltown Community College students than the theater currently provides. That may be a direction they go in the future for the sustainability of the facility, Duree said.

Duree said a stakeholders meeting with invited community leaders is planned for July 22 to discuss options moving forward with the Orpheum. It is not open to the public.

“We want to lay all the cards on the table and talk about the pros and cons,” Duree said.

Overall, Duree said the college district needs to look at the operation of the Orpheum and how tax dollars are being spent to “rechart the direction” of the facility.

“We’ve got to intervene now before we get (the budget deficit) to a point where it’s no longer manageable,” Duree said.

“We’re not doing our jobs if we don’t look at other options for the Orpheum.”