The Santa Monica Pier’s popular annual Twilight Dance Series could be facing a reduced concert schedule or a lineup with more locally based performers due to anticipated funding shortages.

Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation officials, who said they have dealt with two years of severe sponsorship shortfalls for the free summer concerts, are considering a reduced series or replacing the event with a less expensive run of free concerts. The board has initiated a fundraising effort in an attempt to maintain the full-scale Twilight Dance Series despite the sponsorship shortages, restoration corporation Executive Director Ben Franz- Knight said.

“We are 100-percent committed to preserving the tradition of free summer concerts on the Santa Monica Pier, but we are not immune to the economic downturn,” Franz-Knight said. “We depend on corporate sponsors and that revenue was down 80 percent from 2008, and this year is projected to be just as bad.”

As part of the fundraising effort, the corporation has launched an online campaign seeking tax-deductible donations for the summer concerts at its Web site, www.santamonicapier.org/.

In order to produce the 26th season of the Twilight Dance Series with a full ten-concert summer run, another $164,000 at a minimum, would need to be raised in the next two weeks, according to Franz-Knight.

Believing that amount was unreachable, the pier’s board of directors voted March 4th to cut the series to seven concerts, which would require $92,000 in additional funding.

The City Council was expected to consider a one-time matching grant of $35,000 to the concert series at its March 9th meeting, which would bring the total funds that needs to be raised in the coming weeks to $57,000, Franz-Knight said.

The board of directors will then decide Wednesday, March 24th whether sufficient funding has been raised to pay for the regular series. If not, the board is expected to request that staff pursue options for a less expensive free concert series that relies on Los Angeles-area bands and creative partnerships.

Over the years, the event has attracted thousands to the beach and pier for offering a range of national and international performers at Thursday night pier concerts from June through August.

Restoration corporation officials say they are hopeful that enough funding will be raised to continue with the high quality of performances.

“We hope businesses and residents will donate generously,” Franz-Knight said. “Every dollar we raise will go towards free community concerts this summer. The more we raise, the better those concerts will be.”

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