Fiscal News from the Nonprofit Theater World

Pretty cool story from Mike Boehm in the LA Times today, dissecting a recent survey from TCG on the financial health of nonprofit theater.

According to the survey it looks pretty good. But a couple things caught my eye especially. First this:

The survey also seemed to confirm the conventional wisdom that the traditional season subscription model is gradually losing its box-office mojo because people increasingly want to keep their entertainment options open instead of committing to (and paying for) a series of shows far in advance.

I’ve been saying it for a while, the subscriber model is dead. It’s not how people want to see their theater anymore, and it’s not the kind of relationship they want with their companies anymore.

The other thing that caught my eye is WHERE the money is coming from. I’ve been saying for a while now that the loss of the government and state funding doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. And it looks like that’s  where things might be heading, from the private sector, or, heck, let’s just say it, from individuals with a whole lot of discretionary cash. Yep, rich folk.

Their own trustees came through most consistently, with 77% of the companies reporting that board members met or surpassed their expected giving. The figure was 72% for giving by other individuals, and 73% for government contributions — which might reflect lowered expectations for what federal, state and local arts agencies are willing or able to give, rather than any increase in actual grants. Foundations (67%) and corporations (57%) were less likely to match or exceed theaters’ philanthropic expectations.

Anyhoo, it’s a good article with a lot of numbers, which usually gives me a headache, but this one is worth the read.

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Colin Mitchell About the Author: COLIN MITCHELL: Actor/Writer/Director/Producer/Father, award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Broadway veteran, Marvel comics scribe, Van Morrison disciple, Zen-Catholic, a proud U.S. Army Brat conceived in Scotland and born in Frankfurt, Germany, currently living in Los Angeles and doing his best to piss off as many people as possible.

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  1. Tracey Paleo says:

    Well if you look at the ongoing 10-15 year trend from other parts of the art world i.e. ballet companies, the wealthiest donors have been paying the salaries on individual dancers to appear in their favorite companies – something I remember seeing way back when Eithel Stiefel was a new principal at ABT in NYC. So it is no surprise that theater companies are following suite.

    And perhaps they SHOULD be doing so. It might be a fair indication as to where theater and all live performance really stands in the audience view. Maybe?

    • Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

      That’s a very interesting point, Tracey. I’ll be curious to see which kinds of stories and art forms get the most funding. I think it’s a good thing.