There are two crowds who attend the Twilight Dance Series, the weekly free concerts on Thursday nights in the summer. With the stage set up just east of the iconic carousel, there are those that watch the performances on the pier, overlooking the ocean. But then there is the other group of people, who sprawl out down below on the beach, with the sounds of the music above washing over them to accompany the waves of the Pacific Ocean a few yards away.
Beachgoers who attended the first three performances of this year’s Twilight Dance Series have been treated to something special in the form of a large display screen that gave a good look at the concert above to those not actually on the Pier.
“This is the first time ever we have a monitor here at the pier,” said Richard Bloom, Santa Monica’s mayor, at the first concert on July 7.
However, attendees that have enjoyed the screen should be prepared to say goodbye to this technology this week because it will be gone at this upcoming performance on July 28. The Toshiba 10 mm LED screen is set to lose its funding according to a recent statement by Bloom. Ska bands set to play this week will not be featured on any screen unless a sponsor steps in.
“People love this series,” said Bloom. “But I’m afraid we only have enough money to keep the monitor for the first three concerts.”
Craig Hoffman of the Pier Restoration Corporation confirmed the mayor’s statement.
“Next year we would like to have the screen at all ten nights and we are currently looking for sponsorship to make that happen,” Hoffman said. “We would be very happy if someone stepped in to keep the screen at the pier this year but we only have enough money for the first three concerts.”
Budget problems threaten the future of the screen, continuing the problems that have plagued the concert series as a whole in recent years. A number of sponsors kept the Twilight Dance Series running this year. Last year, the City of Santa Monica even stepped in, donating $50,000 to fund the summer concerts on the pier.
“Frankly, we weren’t sure that this year’s concert series was even going to happen,” Bloom said.
Hoffman said the Pier Restoration Corporation would enthusiastically offer a corporate benefit package to anyone interested in sponsorship. “This would allow us to save the screen as well as having the ability to include public service announcements for people on the beach.”
Already one company, Screenworks, has sponsored the display screen for two extra nights and this means the screen will be back in September. But no one has sponsored any of the August performances as of yet.
“It normally costs $8,000 per show,” Hoffman said. “But we were able to secure it for $5,000 per show with some underwriting funds and a large discount from Screenworks.”
Screenworks provides the seven foot, six inch by 12 foot screen and is currently under contract with the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation for five events only. Their contract would have ended after the third week but they have agreed to provide their services for free, sponsoring the last two concerts of the summer.
“Over the years we have noticed all the people on the beach and we are committed to what’s going on onstage,” said Robin Gee, public information and City TV manager. City TV, the City of Santa Monica’s television station, provides video coverage of the concerts.
“We were made aware that there wasn’t enough sponsorship this year,” Gee said. “Every year City TV tapes some of the concerts. This year we are only on contract to cover five out of the ten concerts.”
This year’s Twilight Dance Series roster has featured artists such as the Bangles, Missy Higgins, and Groupo Fantasma and it has presented these shows to the community on the screen. At the fourth week performances, as it currently stands, there will be no video feed nor cameramen to tape the show and bring it live to all the people on the beach until September.
“I actually wish they had a bigger screen,” said Susset Monroy, a beachgoer, in response to the mayor’s statement as she sat atop a blanket with her friend. “I can’t believe we are going to lose this one. Does it really cost that much money? I mean, if we were talking about another community maybe but this is Santa Monica.”
In years past, beachgoers could watch the concerts via a small projector onto a white screen, which hung over the side railing off to the east side of the pier. This year, there isn’t even enough money to do that. In contrast, the new LED screen gives concert attendees a much better view.
“You can see the performers now whereas before you couldn’t see them,” said beachgoer Barbara Farash who can be found sitting every week on her folding beach chair next to the screen. Each concert she brings some picnic food and plants a small U.S. flag into the sand next to her.
“It would be a bummer if the screen was gone because it makes the experience more meaningful to me and more fun,” Farash said. “Thousands of people show up here on the beach and it would make sense if someone sponsored the screen to keep it going for us. There is a half hour break between the bands and I wouldn’t mind seeing a picture of what company sponsored the screen during that time.”
“I prefer sitting on the sand rather then being up on the pier,” said Nicole Haning, who seemed intent on showing her Brazilian friends what it means to have a good time on Santa Monica’s beach. “When I sit down here in the sand with my friends it makes it nice that I can see the concert now and I would be saddened if the screen was not here the next couple of weeks.”
Even though the community has gotten by before without a large LED screen, it is clear that many people do not want the screen to be taken away.
“We really want to enhance the experience of people on the side of the pier who have made it their home out there,” Bloom said.