On July 31, the Cultural Affairs Department will choose one of eight applicants to run the city-owned Los Angeles Theater Center. The city is giving up managerial responsibilities for the moribund facility, which includes four professional theaters and three rehearsal halls.

Insiders say that Gilmore Associates is the front-runner, primarily because of the fund-raising capacities of its CEO, developer Tom Gilmore, who specializes in purchasing and refurbishing buildings (mostly downtown) and converting them into residential lofts. In addition to the Equitable Building in Hollywood, Gilmore’s holdings include St. Vibiana’s Cathedral (which Gilmore plans on turning into an arts center), the Continental, Hellman and San Fernando buildings, the Palace Theater, and the El Dorado Hotel, all within a few blocks of LATC.

“I love the arts, I pursue the arts, but this is about neighborhoods more than it’s about the arts,” Gilmore explains. “God knows if I’m right, but our spearheading this project would come from a real estate perspective. That’s what makes our proposal a little different.”

Still, a real estate perspective led to downtown skyscrapers and office buildings sitting empty through the ’80s after a flurry of construction and reconstruction.

As to concerns about the art itself, Gilmore is leaving all that to partners. He enlisted the help of Garson Entertainment (run by Randy Gardell and Bryan Peterson) and Will & Company, an educational Shakespeare company currently in residence at LATC. Says Gilmore, “I’m not saying that Garson’s programming will be more mainstream, let’s say more commercial.”

But Gilmore says he has every intention of spreading the artistic net. “The realpolitik of this is that whoever ends up with it will end up partnering with the people who didn’t get it,” Gilmore explains.

Gilmore mentions Jose Luis Valenzuela and his Latino Theater Company as one of the applicant companies he would work with if he wins the three-year lease.

Other request-for-proposal forms have been submitted by developer Morris Shaoulian, the Los Angeles Media & Education Center, Paul Kreppel’s Coalition for a New LATC (which put in an unsuccessful, similar bid to run the city’s Madrid Theater), Theater L.A. (still determining whether running a theater is in its charter), Matt Chait (who operates The Complex chain of small theaters on Santa Monica Boulevard) and Tony Wilson’s Ask Theater Group.

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