Theatres at the Crossroads: Overcoming Downtrends & Protecting Your Organization Through Future Downturns

Theatres at the Crossroads: Overcoming Downtrends & Protecting Your Organization Through Future Downturns

Theater organizations in the United States saw a significant drop in contributed revenue in 2010 and early signs in 2017 point to another downward trend, a report from SMU DataArts and the Theatre Communications Group finds. Based on data from seventy-five theaters, the report, Theatres at the Crossroads: Overcoming Downtrends & Protecting Your Organization Through Future Downturns (15 pages, PDF), found that between 2004 and 2017, average growth in total expenses outpaced that of total revenue, with both earned and contributed income falling precipitously in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Over the same fourteen-year period, attendance fell 8 percent; subscriptions fell 28 percent and subscription income 12 percent, while single ticket sales rose 3 percent and, with ticket prices up, single ticket income increased 22 percent. In terms of contributed income, contributions from individuals, foundations, and governments in 2017 were up 65 percent, 21 percent, and 31 percent, respectively, from 2004 levels despite siginificant drops in 2010, but corporate giving was down 22 percent. And in 2017, individual, foundation, and coporate contributions were all down year-over-year. The study also found that while total assets and total net assets grew 53 percent and 41 percent between 2004 and 2017, total liabilities increased 97 percent. The report's recommendations include reducing debt and building working capital, launching a mission-aligned project while the economy is still strong to prepare for a potential downturn, focusing on audience retention and cultivating relationships with individual donors, and evaluating and, where possible, cutting expenses.