9/11: Polls Assess the Impact; as Data Emerge and Philanthropy Flows in, America's Theatres Continue to Respond to the Crisis. (Trends &Amp; Events).(Statistical Data Included)

American Theatre, May 2002 | Go to article overview

9/11: Polls Assess the Impact; as Data Emerge and Philanthropy Flows in, America's Theatres Continue to Respond to the Crisis. (Trends &Amp; Events).(Statistical Data Included)


Theatre Communications Group has completed the second in a trio of surveys aimed at gauging the economic health of America's nonprofit theatres in the aftermath of the Sept.11 terrorist attacks. The poll constitutes a follow-up to one conducted in October by AMS Planning and Research Corporation of Fairfield, Conn., in collaboration with a group of arts organizations. More than 130 theatres from around the country replied to TCG's new survey, which took place between Jan. 15 and March 1, 2002. The results suggest that many theatres remain relatively optimistic that they will weather the crisis without grave losses, at least in the short term.

Fifty-five percent of respondents expect their operating budgets to increase in the next fiscal year, compared to 38 percent who expect their budgets to decline and 7 percent who predict no change. As of Dec. 31, 57 percent of the theatres had chalked up an increase in total ticket sales, compared to the previous year (by contrast, 43 percent had experienced a decline or no change). And while foundation, corporation and individual giving had often fallen short of projections--suggesting that the recent economic boom had prompted many institutions to set their hopes high--a comparison with figures from the previous year reveals no drastic decline in donations as of the end of 2001.

Given the poll's time frame, however, and the fact that funding budgets had in many cases been set before Sept. 11, the safest conclusion may be: It's still too early to know the long-term impact of the catastrophe on the theatrical community. The short-term impact is, at this point, somewhat clearer. The AMS Planning and Research Corporation survey, conducted Oct. 2-16, 2001, in collaboration with the American Symphony Orchestra League, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Dance/USA, the League of Historic American Theatres, the International Society for Performing Arts, OPERA America and TCG, analyzed data from 850 arts organizations across the country. Results indicate that respondents lost $2 million in box-office revenue, as well as $5 million in direct revenue from fundraising events, due to the cancelation of performances and special events in the last two weeks of September. Roughly 20 percent of respondents were members of TCG.

Needless to say, local economies are experiencing the fallout in different ways. For example, the San Francisco cultural industry is directly linked to tourism, because the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund relays 14 percent of visitors' hotel fees to the city's arts organizations (the amount going to performing-arts organizations is about 8 percent). A paper issued in November by Theatre Bay Area estimated that local hotel occupancy rates, which had exceeded 83 percent in 2000, would drop to 60 percent for 2001--a decline likely to exacerbate the pressure on theatres already affected by the collapse of the region's high-tech companies.

But New York theatres, of course, have been hardest hit by the tragedy. In a survey of 101 of its members, A.R.T./New York, New York's arts-service organization for Off-Broad-way theatres, attempted to measure the impact of recent combined setbacks--the recession, the World Trade Center attacks, the anthrax scare, additional terrorist warnings and worries about downtown air quality--on the theatres' revenue streams through Oct. 31, 2001. At that point, respondents reported a total loss of nearly $5 million, including box-office income, space rentals, bookings and fundraising events. The losses were most devastating to the smallest theatres: Companies with budgets under $100,000, for instance, reported a 40 percent dip in income.

To help offset some of these financial woes, A.R.T./New York has offered $255,000 in loans and grants to its members; additionally, the organization is funneling grants worth $2.5 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to 125 New York nonprofit theatres with operating budgets of under $4 million. …

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9/11: Polls Assess the Impact; as Data Emerge and Philanthropy Flows in, America's Theatres Continue to Respond to the Crisis. (Trends &Amp; Events).(Statistical Data Included)
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