Friday, September 05, 2008

Arts Advocacy Update LVI

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of September 3, 2008:

Please pay special attention to the last selection this week, highlighting the information in TCG's Theatre Facts 2007.

Airwave Concerns Prompt Proposal To Ban Some Wireless Microphones
Washington Post - AP, 8/22/2008
"The Federal Communications Commission is proposing a ban on certain types of wireless microphones and has begun an investigation into how the industry markets its products. Consumer groups alleged in a complaint last month that users of the ubiquitous microphones, including Broadway actors, mega-church pastors and karaoke DJs, are unwittingly violating FCC rules that require licenses for the devices."
This is a story that is starting to gain some traction. I'm not particularly worried about the ability to sing Karma Chameleon and 99 Luftballoons with a machine, but if I were an actor, I'd be quite concerned about the ability to use a mic. What it might mean, among other things, is increased production costs and/or the utterly unthinkable -- having to actually project like actors used to do. Perish the thought.

Is the End of Unlimited Internet Near?
ABC News, 9/1/2008
"Last week, Comcast -- the second-largest Internet service provider in the country -- announced that starting Oct. 1 it would officially set a threshold for monthly Internet usage. . . . The company emphasizes that its cap is generous and will only affect about 1 percent of its 14.4 million customers. Experts say these customers might include heavy gamers and those who use a significant amount of bandwidth for creating or uploading video."
"The Internet is for porn..." as the lyric from Avenue Q goes, though that might not be the case if these caps really go forward. Media company bastards.

City aims to create cultural mecca
Greensboro News Record (NC), 8/26/2008
In Greensboro, NC, "[a] consultant's report recommends that the city spend $14 million during the next decade to create an expanded cultural district downtown."
A good counter to the reflex conservatism of the NC world.

Don’t forget about arts
Denver Daily News (CO), 8/27/2008
"With the economy being a major selling point of the 2008 presidential election, a panel [in Denver] yesterday discussed what they claimed plays a major, if underrepresented, factor in America’s financial well-being — the arts."
I do wonder, quite frankly, whether the arts plays any kind of role in how voters make their decisions. Any empirical numbers on that?

Theatre Facts 2007
Theatre Communications Group, 2008
Theatre Facts 2007 provides three lenses through which to view the not-for-profit theatre field’s attendance, performance and fiscal health. The report shows that although the field suffered some set-backs, it also made progress, with the majority of theatres ending the year in the black. Theatres continue to make tremendous contributions to the nation’s artistic legacy, to their communities and to the economy while facing both ongoing challenges and an environment of increasing uncertainty.
Clearly a must-read for everyone in the business. From the press release (available on TCG's website) here are the highlights:

General facts:
1. Not-for-profit theatres’ contribution to the U.S. economy increased to $1.7 billion through payments for goods, services and employee salaries and benefits.
2. Theatres offered 197,000 performances that attracted over 31 million attendees.
3. The majority of theatres’ employees are engaged in artistic positions, with an average workplace consisting of 56% artistic, 31% technical and 13% administrative personnel.
4. 51% of total income came from earned sources and 49% from contributions.

From the Trend Theatres (117 theatres) section:
1. 70% of theatres ended 2007 in the black, when combining factors such as operating results, capital gains and building campaigns proceeds. Deficits have been less severe in the past three years, while surpluses have been greater.
2. Working capital (which consists of the unrestricted resources available to the theatre to meet obligations and day-to-day cash needs) was negative in each of the 5 years but improved annually, as did the investment ratio.
3. Earned income increased steadily from 2003 to 2007, rising nearly 13% in the past year alone and outpacing inflation by 21.9% over the 5-year period.
4. Growth in total contributed income exceeded inflation by 7.4%, while expenses exceeded inflation by 7.7%.
5. Average single ticket income was 6.8% lower after adjusting for inflation in 2007 than in 2003, and 2% fewer single tickets were purchased over that period.
6. Average subscription income rose 3.7% over the 5-year span, however 2% fewer subscription tickets were purchased and the number of subscribers fell by 8%.
7. Total attendance declined 6.1% for the period from 2003-2007 versus the decline of 8.1% during the period from 2002-2006.
8. Occupancy/building, equipment and maintenance costs increased each year, rising 19.8% above inflation over 5 years—one of the highest expense line item increases, relating to the recent surge in new buildings and renovations.
9. Average endowment earnings were at a 5-year high in 2007, increasing 90.8% in the past year and more than 360% over the five year period.

From the Profiled Theatres (196 theatres) section:
1. In 2007, earned income financed 63% of total expenses and contributed income financed 46.6%, which shows that total income exceeded total expenses by 9.6%.
2. Income from ticket sales represented 64.5% of total earned income and supported over 40% of all expenses.
3. The labor-intensive nature of theatre is evidenced by the fact that 56% of total expenses—over $520 million—goes to compensation (including salaries, benefits and royalties to playwrights).
4. Theatres received gifts totaling more than $160 million from individuals (the largest single source of contributed income), which supported 17% of total expenses and accounted for 37% of all contributed dollars.
5. 47 theatres were in capital campaigns in 2007 that generated $53 million or 12% of all contributed funds

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