Local News

Attendance Low at Parton Theater, City Officials Say

Posted October 25, 2007 6:44 p.m. EDT

Roanoke Rapids officials say attendance figures at the newly opened Randy Parton Theatre are less than they expected on their $21 million investment.

Theater officials won't release the numbers, but say it is too early to worry about attendance for the facility, which opened three months ago.

"You have your influx of 'Ooh, it's new, let's go,' and then, after that, it takes two to three years for any business to grow its leg," said Janis O'Neill, national sales manager for the theater.

She stresses patience but also acknowledges empty space surrounding the theater as a factor in low attendance numbers.

Unlike other attractions, she said, the theater has no other surrounding businesses in which patrons can go for shopping or dining.

But officials for Carolina Crossroads – an entertainment hub that will feature live entertainment, retail shops and other prospective attractions – maintains the area won't be like that for long.

As part of a five-year plan, about 300,000 square feet of outlet retail stores and 20,000 square feet of specialty shops will join a hotel and restaurants in the theater's back yard.

City officials took a financial risk on the theater, borrowing $21.5 million to build the 1,500-seat complex. They also signed an agreement with the theater's namesake, Randy Parton, for a $1.5 million-per-year artist fee to perform at and run the complex.

They say they expect attendance figures at the theater to jump soon.

But Carolina Crossroads representatives say that despite low attendance numbers, the theater is having a positive impact on the area.

For example, three years ago, land in the area sold for about $1,500 an acre. It now sells for about $500,000.