North Shore Survival Plan

Officials with the historic North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Mass., are optimistic they’ve found a way to keep the doors open provided they can raise $2 million by July.

The plan, one used successfully in previous years, is for the cash-strapped NSMT to partner with area theatres to co-produce a scaled-down 2009 season of six shows along with the venue’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol” and other concerts. Shows will run for two weeks instead of three or four.

The strategy could save about $4 million in annual expenses for the nonprofit, according to a statement from NSMT.

The $2 million would be in addition to about $400,000 already raised.

The situation has been tenuous since NSMT officials announced in December that 57 employees would be laid off because of dwindling donations, slow ticket sales and overwhelming debt from a 2005 fire that left the facility with no means to cover operating costs.

In February, there was even talk of finding a buyer for the theatre, which would then lease the building back to the nonprofit’s board.

Board chairman David Fellows said in the statement the strategy is the best chance to rebuild the theatre’s business model.

“We have work ahead of us but we have a viable business plan,” Fellows said. “We need to the funding to launch the new business mode and we need the continued cooperation of our creditors and the support of our donors to have a future.”