Nonprofit theaters struggle

More than half of nonprofit theaters in the U.S. posted a deficit in 2002, and the prognosis for the coming years is bleak, a new survey says.

While attendance grew 17 percent and individual giving increased 48 percent over the past five years, expenses skyrocketed and severe capital losses limited many theaters’ spending ability, says Theatre Facts 2002, a survey of 1,146 nonprofit professional theaters.

“Unless the economy improves dramatically, the long-term outlook is grim,” says Zannie Giraud Voss, a theater professor at Duke University in Durham, N.C., and co-author of the survey.

None of the 71 theaters the survey has tracked for five years started a capital campaign in 2002 and that likely will cause contributions to slow in the coming years, Voss says.

The survey, which looks at attendance, performance and fiscal health of nonprofit theaters, is sponsored by Theatre Communications Group, the national organization of professional, nonprofit theaters.

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