iO West, the Los Angeles branch of Chicago’s iO Theater (formerly ImprovOlympic) founded by Del Close and Charna Halpern, is closing its doors for good next week. In an email sent to performers today, iO West Managing Director Zach Huddleston announced that the theater, which has been in operation for over two decades, is shutting down, explaining that “Despite our best efforts, the theater isn’t profitable.” Huddleston confirmed the news with us, noting that the theater will officially close on Saturday, February 24th: “It will be the last night of operation at 6366 Hollywood Blvd and probably for the iO West brand,” he said. “We’ll have shows and classes as planned until the 24th and then that night we’re going to have a huge party/funeral where we celebrate all of the wonderful people and performances that have come through iO in LA.” The Chicago location, meanwhile, will continue to operate as usual. Here’s what Charna Halpern told us on iO West’s closing:
iO West suffered major loss from a club the landlord put in next door that had shootings and fights constantly. Vice finally closed them down after a year. Then the landlord put in bands that rehearsed under our stages during shows. Students and theatergoers decreased. We just never recovered. It’s been almost 25 years since I opened iO West so it’s a sad day. But iO in Chicago is strong and I hope that everyone from my LA theater knows this’ll still be their home. We have a closing night party Saturday Feb 24th.
iO West was opened by iO alum and teacher Paul Vaillancourt in 1997, and like Second City and UCB, it’s been a popular training ground for comedy talents who have gone on to appear in movies, television shows, and Saturday Night Live.