Malibu Playhouse Moving to Month-to-Month Lease

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The Malibu Playhouse property at 29243 Pacific Coast Highway, which has been the home of live local theater performances since 2002, went on the market last summer, and is currently in escrow and expected to close by the end of December, according to managing director Julia Holland. 

Holland said the Malibu Playhouse has been offered a month-to-month lease on the property beginning around the first of the year. The lease offer was made through Realtor Shen Schulz at Sotheby’s International Realty Malibu/Point Dume brokerage office, and would include a 90-day move-out notice. Holland intends to sign the lease, assuming the property actually does close and terms are acceptable. 

For the time being, the Playhouse plans to continue its “Once Upon a Time Children’s Theater” and “Young Actors Project,” with productions already scheduled into March. Holland said she also hopes to continue renting out the facility to the community for recitals, concerts and other performances. 

When Realtor Schulz was asked whether he could confirm whether a religious group was buying the property, he emphatically said, “It is not.” He is not at liberty to disclose the identity of the buyer, but confirmed that the property is in escrow with some inspections still remaining.

Paula Mae Schwartz, who had just become chair and executive producer of the Malibu Playhouse a few months before the sale was announced, and produced the highly successful “Life Expectancy” play in October, confirmed that a month-to-month lease would be too much of a “handicap” to work with in terms of getting financing and commitments for professional adult productions. Unless a suitable venue with a long-term lease can be located, she indicated that adult professional theater production in Malibu is now over. 

“The adult theater was a legitimate, professional theater — a regional theater,” Schwartz explained. “It takes several months to mount a professional quality production, with time needed to rehearse, pay out money, commit people, and put it on … With a month-to-month lease, you could be in the middle of something and be given your 90-day notice. The pressure would be way too much to deal with, and cast members and art directors wouldn’t want to perform there.”

Professional productions are expensive, even for a 99-seat theater. The cost of the average drama at the Malibu Playhouse was $25,000, and musicals cost about $35,000. “The bigger the cast, the more the cost,” Schwartz said. 

Even if the Malibu Playhouse hadn’t been sold, another wrench has just been thrown into the works. According to Malibu-based producer Veronica Brady, the LA actors’ and stage managers’ labor union, Actors Equity Association, instituted new theater agreements stating that actors can no longer donate their services — even to a small 99-seat theater like the Malibu Playhouse. Beginning on Dec. 15, actors have to be paid minimum wage for every hour of rehearsal time and every performance. 

“There are over 200 99-seat theaters in the LA area,” Brady said. “And all over LA, people are going to feel the effects of the [increased costs from the new union agreement], which will force these little theaters to shut down.”

“What’s sad is that a lot of people started going to the theater — we had a really good turnout when we re-introduced it,” Schwartz said. “We have a need for theater here, provided it’s the quality that people in Malibu appreciate.”