“Hadestown,” winner of the 2019 Tony Award for Best New Musical. (Photo: Matthew Murphy)
We’ve all felt the loss of live theater in 2020. And while grassroots efforts continue to be made by theaters big and small, coronavirus’s impact has been nothing short of devastating. While we look forward to a brighter 2021, a recently released report from Theater Communications Group highlights just how impactful the theater industry is to our economy.
“For over 45 years, TCG has provided in-depth longitudinal research on the state of the field, from attendance numbers to expenses to working capital,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director, TCG. “Theatre Facts 2019 provides a critical perspective on the fiscal state of our theatre ecology before COVID-19, and the largest protest for racial justice in our country’s history transformed our field. As a vital historical record, Theatre Facts 2019 documents the financial successes and challenges theatres faced, helping us collectively imagine new ways of supporting theatres and theatremakers going forward.”
Nonprofit theatres contributed nearly $2.8 billion to the U.S. economy and attracted 38 million attendees, according to the report. Based on the annual TCG Fiscal Survey, Theatre Facts is the only in-depth report that examines the attendance, performance, and overall fiscal state of the U.S. professional not-for-profit theatre field. Theatre Facts 2019 represents the 40th and final edition of the research report in this format. Going forward, TCG will work with partners like SMU DataArts to reassess what research efforts are most needed as the theatre field recovers and returns from the COVID-19 pandemic.
TheatreWorks was awarded the 2019 Regional Theatre Tony Award.
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“This report is a celebration of the enduring importance and resiliency of the American theatre field and those who create and support it,” said Zannie Giraud Voss, director, SMU DataArts. “Ultimately, the communal nature of arts participation will be a strength to communities hungry to come together again and affirm existential meaning after prolonged isolation, trauma, and polarization.”
Key findings include:
- While both earned and contributed income growth surpassed inflation, the chief driver of total income growth was earned income. The 5-year growth rates were 17.2% for earned income, 1.1% for contributed income, and 9.1% for expenses.
- Total ticket income grew by 10%, with subscription and single ticket income representing the primary sources of earned income annually. Average single ticket income was 13.6% higher in 2019 than in 2015, while subscription income was 5.2% higher. The average number of subscribers was highest in 2015, falling 4.1% by 2019.
- Growth outpaced inflation for nearly every category of contributed income. Individuals were by far the greatest source of contributed income each year. Average combined contributions from trustees and other individuals increased by 17.4%. There were also increases in the average number of other individual donors per theatre over time and in the average amount per gift.
- Capital campaigns have increased theatres’ long-term investments and fixed assets. However, the success of those campaigns has not translated into sufficient levels of readily available funds to meet daily needs. Negative working capital, experienced by roughly 55% of theatres every year, indicates that a theatre is borrowing funds internally or externally to meet its daily operating needs. Forty-three percent of the Trend Theatres had negative working capital in every year. This suggests that many theatres encounter serious cash flow crunches and may face serious financial trouble.