NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – There are roughly 70 seats at the Secret Rose Theatre and right now all of them are empty. It's a troubling sight for owner Rick Shaw but not as upsetting, he says, as seeing the empty stage.
“Every writer, actor, director, dancer, comedian, musician, they all start out in little theaters," he explained. "We’re where it all begins and if the theaters go out, that’s gone.”
Shaw owns the theater – but he doesn’t own the building. He leases the space from his landlord and like many other small theater owners, rents it out for everything from plays, dance performances, and acting classes, to church services and support groups.
“All of it happens at these theaters," he said.
And there are a lot of them -- roughly 20 within the one square miles designated as the NoHo Arts District. That's the second largest concentration of small theaters in the country -- second only to New York City.
The theaters serve as an important economic engine for the neighborhood.
“This is usually extremely packed and jammed with people," Nancy Bianconi said at the relatively empty corner of Lankershim and Magnolia. As president of NoHo Communications Group, she says the theaters bring thousands of visitors – and their money -- into North Hollywood every year.