The Lincoln vs. the Howard: What a difference operations make
The revival of the Howard Theatre brought worry that our newly revived venue would follow the disappointing path of the Lincoln Theatre on U Street. After all, both theaters were built in the early 20th century, both are owned by the DC government, and both are located within a short walk of each other.
A glance at both theaters’ online schedules reveals that their fates have sharply diverged. From now until the end of June, the Lincoln Theatre has 5 events scheduled while the Howard has 51.
This glaring disparity shows the importance of selecting the right management team. The District chose the experienced Blue Note Entertainment Group to run the Howard while it chose the non-profit U Street Theatre Foundation to run the Lincoln. The mayor’s office rightly revoked U Street Theatre Foundation’s contract for the Lincoln as the theatre was careening toward bankruptcy at the end of 2011. The mayor has tasked the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities with finding a new operator for the Lincoln.
The greater U Street area is a regional arts venue. The Howard Theatre, the 9:30 Club, U Street Music Hall, the Black Cat, Bohemian Caverns, Twins Jazz Club, and numerous performance-oriented bars provide an amount of live performance space most cities would envy. But when we compare the success of these venues to the fiasco of the Lincoln Theatre, it becomes clear that something is terribly wrong in the District’s stewardship of this resource. If all of these venues can thrive, so can the Lincoln.