Not-for-profit theatres contributed nearly $2.2 billion to the U.S. economy and attracted 29.5 million attendees, according to Theatre Facts 2015, released by Theatre Communications Group (TCG). 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 2015 shows theatres benefitting from increases in earned and contributed income, and highlights an increased investment by our field in the workforce that serves as our core,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director of TCG. “Theatres are also pushing back on a decline in attendance through education programs and productions for young audiences, which saw significant increases in reach and income generated. While our field continues to face challenges, this report indicates that many theatres have found a greater sense of stability and are investing in the future.”
Theatre Facts 2015 reflects data from the fiscal year that theatres completed between October 31, 2014 and September 30, 2015. Following an Executive Summary, the report presents data in three ways:
- The Universe: a broad overview of the estimated 1,750 U.S. professional not-for-profit theatres;
- Trend Theatres: a longitudinal analysis of the 125 theatres that completed the TCG Fiscal Survey each year since 2011, with a side-note offering a 10-year view, based on a subset of theatres that participated each year since 2006; and
- Profiled Theatres: a detailed examination of all 198 theatres that participated in TCG Fiscal Survey 2015, with data broken out into six budget categories based on annual expenses.
Unless otherwise noted, all of the financial changes reported in this press release reflect average, inflation-adjusted figures for the Trend Theatres for the 5-year period from 2011 to 2015.
Giving is up (a lot), going is down (a little): On average, the Trend Theatres reported a 46.9% increase in trustee giving and a 24.8% increase in contributed income from other individuals over the 5-year period. This significant rise in individual giving occurred alongside a decline in overall attendance: -3.6% over the 5-year period; and -8.8% for the subset of 92 Trend Theatres who completed the Fiscal Survey over a 10-year period.
Next generation on the rise: As a hopeful counterpoint to the decline in attendance, Trend Theatres saw increasing success from education programs, as well as children’s series productions (i.e., productions for young-audiences by theatres that are not Theatre for Young Audience theatres). Average earned income from education/outreach programs rose 27.5% over the 5-year period, with the average number of people served by outreach and education activity rising from 14,664 in 2011 to 17,868 in 2015. Attendance at children’s series performances grew 11.8%, and there was a 24% increase in income from those productions.
Investing in people: Total payroll among Trend Theatres grew by nearly 14% from 2011 to 2015, matched by a 13% increase in the average number of paid personnel. Theatres spend more money by far on payroll than any other expense category, with nearly 55% of all expenses going to artistic, administrative, and production/technical personnel.
Long-term strength, short-term trouble: Thirty-seven percent of Trend Theatres were in a capital campaign in 2015, the highest level of the 5 years. Many of these campaigns strengthened long-term investments and fixed assets such as endowments and building-related expenses, leading to a 5.4% rise in fixed assets. Working capital —the unrestricted resources available to meet day-to-day obligations and cash needs—was negative in each of the 5 years, worsening in 2015 after two years of improvement.
Holding the (bottom) line: In spite of ongoing cash flow issues related to working capital, there was a positive average Change in Unrestricted Net Assets (CUNA) for Trend Theatres in all but one of the five years, indicating a majority of theatres achieved surplus income after paying all expenses. At the same time, the growth in expenses over the 5-year period exceeded the growth in income, which could lead to challenges for theatres in the future.
Theatre Facts 2015 was written by Zannie Giraud Voss, Professor and Chair of Arts Management and Director of the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at Southern Methodist University (SMU); and Glenn B. Voss, Professor, Marketing Department, Cox School of Business, and NCAR Research Director, SMU; with Ilana B. Rose, Associate Director of Research & Collective Action, TCG; and Laurie Baskin, Director of Research, Policy & Collective Action, TCG.