Cash influx eases NJ theater's crisis

The Ritz Theatre, in Haddon Twp., was transformed by volunteers in 1985. It has produced 180 plays and runs summer theater camps.

A donor who wishes to remain anonymous provided the Ritz Theatre Company with $5,000 Friday.

The contribution boosts to $56,000 the proceeds of a Facebook-driven plea to help keep the Ritz open, says Bruce Curless, founder and director of the Haddon Township, NJ performing arts institution.

"The message we’ve gotten loud and clear is, what we do matters," Curless says. "And we’re going to continue to do it."

The Haddon Heights resident, 66,  led the transformation of the White Horse Pike landmark, which opened as a vaudeville house in 1927, became an X-rated movie theater in the '70s, and closed in the '80s.

A cash crunch Curless attributed mainly to falling subscriptions, declining box office sales and diminished corporate and government support put the nonprofit theatre company's current season in jeopardy. The $56,000 will offer the Ritz a "breather," he said, adding that the theatre company needs another $44,000 to finish its current budget year in the black and another $200,000 to secure its long-term future.

Tickets are still available for "Rock the Ritz," a first-of-its kind fundraiser that will be staged at  the theater on April 5.