Nonprofit theaters see financial upswing

The curtain may be rising on better times for nonprofit theaters, two reports say.

Two-thirds of theaters that ended their fiscal year in fall and winter expect to have roughly met or exceeded their budget, as do 71 percent of theaters that will end their fiscal year in spring or summer, says the first report by Theatre Communications Group.

And 70 percent of theaters say they are in better shape than they were a year ago, although their progress is the result of retrenchment, says a separate report by the organization, a professional group for nonprofit theaters.

The first report, Taking Your Fiscal Pulse – Spring 2010, is based on a survey by Theatre Communications Group in collaboration with the Association of the Performing Arts Service Organizations in which 435 nonprofit theaters participated.

That report says most theaters, rebounding slightly from budget cuts and the economic crisis last year, are holding steady or seeing increases in attendance and in revenue from ticket sales, ancillary income like concessions, and contributions from foundations, trustees and other donors.

Theaters, however, expect government and corporate support to fall short of budget projections, with theaters that end their budget year in fall and winter expecting that support to be slightly better than those that end their budget year in spring and summer.

The vast majority of theater ended or will end their fiscal year on target for expenses or with lower expenses than budgeted, although nearly half expect cash-flow problems this year.

And most plan to increase their budgets or keep them the same.

The second report, The New Normal: One Year Later, says that while 70 percent of 175 member theaters of Theatre Communications Group reported they are doing better, they also face staff reductions and longer workdays that cannot be sustained for the long-term.

And nearly all theaters in 2009 cut budgets and restructured staff, with changes including smaller shows and casts, shorter rehearsal times and greater reliance on local talent.

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