Naming rights have been sold for hockey arenas, baseball fields and football stadiums.

Now, add theaters.

To cover operating expenses, 710 Main Theatre – the former Studio Arena – is selling its naming rights.

“We’ll accept a response from any business, individual or organization interested in putting their hat in the ring,” said Tony Conte, president of Shea’s Performing Arts Center, which manages 710 Main Theatre.

While corporate naming rights haven’t been part of theater culture in Buffalo, they have been just about everywhere else.

The funding strategy is increasingly popular in the industry, Conte said.

There’s the Snapple Theater Center at 50th and Broadway in New York City, for example; the Best Buy Theater in Times Square; the Bank of America Pavilion, an outdoor amphitheater in Boston; and the Comcast Theatre in Hartford, Conn.

Even Hollywood landmark Grauman’s Chinese Theater is no longer Grauman’s.

The Chinese television maker TCL paid more than $5 million for the naming rights in January.

The asking price would be quite a bit less in Buffalo, where the minimum acceptable bid for naming rights at 710 Main Theatre is $500,000 for 10 years.

The theater will accept requests for proposals until April 12.

“It’s an exciting opportunity, by and large,” said Conte, noting that attendance is picking up and Main Street is opening back up to traffic.

“We think it’s good exposure for a company or organization looking for that kind of exposure.”

It’s a good step for the theater, too.

The money from the sponsorship will be used to underwrite maintenance costs and improvements to the building, Conte said.

“In my opinion, there’s no way on earth [710 Main Theatre] can survive by purely selling tickets,” said Arun Jain, a University at Buffalo marketing professor. “They really need something more than that, and this sponsorship is one way of doing that.”

While the arrangement can be equally beneficial for both the sponsor and 710 Main Theatre, Jain cautioned the theater about choosing a sponsor that’s consistent with its image.

“They need to be very, very careful,” Jain said. “Should I use Levi? Or should I use Versace? Both of them carry a different image.”

In fact, Conte said, the theater is looking for a sponsor whose name would be an appropriate fit, is viable and has enough longevity that it will be around as a long as the agreement.

And while the theater is open to all bids, it does reserve the right to refuse any application for any reason, Conte said.

There will be an informational session at 10 a.m. March 19 in the theater to provide tours and answer questions about the theater’s goals and progress.

The bids will be narrowed down to two, and the selected sponsor and new name of the theater will be revealed during next fall’s “Curtain Up!”

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