TCG Report: Nonprofit Theatres on the Rebound

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Not-for-profit theaters contributed nearly $1.94 billion to the US economy and attracted 34 million attendees, according to Theatre Facts 2011.

Released by Theatre Communications Group (TCG), Theatre Facts is the only in-depth report that examines the attendance, performance and overall fiscal state of the not-for-profit professional theater industry. Theatre Facts 2011 is based on the TCG Fiscal Survey, compiling data from theaters’ fiscal years ending between October 31, 2010 and September 30, 2011. First published in 1980, the annual Theatre Facts report examines unrestricted income and expenses, balance sheets, attendance, pricing and performance details.

“After several years of difficult economic news, Theatre Facts 2011 shows audiences rebounding and working capital on the rise,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director of TCG. “Other notable trends include a rise in contributed income led by individual donors, an upswing in hiring with theaters adding 10% more employees, a five-year increase in both capital campaigns and rental income, and growing attendance at stage readings and workshops. These trends suggest theaters are beginning to climb out of the recession by leveraging their fixed””and human””assets in meaningful ways.”

Following are highlights from Theatre Facts 2011, now available on TCG’s website, A narrative version published in American Theatre magazine that provides case studies and anecdotes from prominent managing leaders will be available at in November.

The Universe section provides the broadest snapshot of the industry for 2011, examining an overview of 1,876 not-for-profit theaters””179 theaters that completed the TCG Fiscal Survey and 1,697 theaters that filed IRS Form 990. Using an extrapolation formula based on annual expenses, findings include:

– Theaters attracted over 34 million attendees at 177,000 performances, up from 31 million in Theatre Facts 2010
– The majority of theaters’ employees are engaged in artistic positions, with an average workplace consisting of 60% artistic, 28% technical and 12% administrative personnel
– 51% of total income came from earned sources and 49% from contributions.

The Trend Theatres section provides a longitudinal analysis of the 113 theaters that have responded to the TCG Fiscal Survey in each of the past five years (2007-2011). Findings include:

– 58% of theaters ended 2011 with a positive Change in Unrestricted Net Assets (CUNA), up from 40% in 2009, but slightly down from 64% in 2010. For the theaters with negative CUNA in 2011, the majority of those negative bottom lines were not severe.
– Average working capital (unrestricted resources available to the theater to meet obligations and day-to-day cash needs) was negative in each of the five years, though 2011 saw an improvement over the low of 2010. At the same time, capital campaigns continued to leave theaters with substantial growth in investments and new, improved or expanded facilities, with a 27% rise in fixed assets over the past five years.
– Total income increased 15.5% from 2010 to 2011 and 3.4% over the five-year period and supported 8.4% and 1.7% more of expenses, respectively.

Earned Income

– Earned income increased 8.3% from 2010 to 2011, but declined 3.9% from 2007 to 2011.
– Overall ticket sales and attendance rose from 2010 to 2011, with increases of 3.9% and 2.5%, respectively. However, over the five-year period, both areas did fall by 0.4% and 4%, respectively.
– Average single ticket income in 2011 increased 6.6% from 2010 and saw a 13.3% growth over the five-year period.
– Single ticket attendance was also on an uptrend from 2010, with the number of single tickets bought increasing by 5% but was down by 1% over the five-year period.
– Subscriptions held relatively steady from 2010 to 2011, with the one-year change for subscription income, subscription tickets and the number of subscribers at -0.2%, 0% and -2%, respectively. Although average subscription income decreased 17.6% over the five-year span, subscriptions still remain the second largest income generator for theaters.
– Although staged readings/workshops make up a smaller percentage of overall attendance, attendance at these events increased by 15.9% from 2010 and 80.5% over five years.
– Rental income saw a 45.7% increase over the five years, with 80 to 86% of theaters earning income from rentals annually, which demonstrates that theaters are taking advantage of their down time to earn ancillary income from their fixed assets.
– Average capital gains from investment assets rebounded 163.3% from 2010 and were at their five-year peak in 2011 at an increase of 13.9%, recovering from the severely negative numbers in 2008 and 2009.

Contributed Income

– Contributed income increased by 25.7% in 2011 from a five-year low in 2010, and by 13.9% from 2007. The greatest support consistently came from individual contributions (trustees and other individuals), which increased 55.1% from 2010 to 2011 and 29.9% over five years.
– Foundations were the second biggest source of contributed support, increasing 21.6% from 2010, although that support dropped 7.2% over the five-year period.
– Corporate support increased 21.9% from 2010 to 2011 but dropped 20.3% from 2007.
– Government funding fluctuated greatly during the five-year period due to exceptional support of capital campaigns of one or two theaters in each category.


– After belt-tightening in many areas in 2009 and 2010, there were increases in all but one expense category (physical production) in 2011. Total expense growth over the five-year period exceeded inflation by 1.8%.
– Total payroll is consistently the greatest proportion of overall expenses and rose 6.4% from 2010 to 2011 and by 1.1% from 2007 to 2011. Theaters added 10% more employees (full-time, part-time and jobbed-in) to their payroll from 2010 and reached a five-year high in 2011.

The Profiled Theatres section provides the greatest level of detail for the 179 theaters that completed TCG Fiscal Survey 2011. This analysis breaks down information by budget group and in aggregate. Findings include:

– Roughly 55.7% of total expenses””over half a billion dollars in total””goes to compensation (including salaries, benefits and royalties to playwrights), highlighting the labor-intensive nature of the theater field.
– In 2011, earned income financed 59.1% of total expenses and contributed income financed 48.6%, which shows that total income exceeded total expenses by 7.7%, leaving theaters with a positive Change in Unrestricted Net Assets (CUNA) overall.
Income from total ticket sales represented 69% of total earned income and supported nearly 41% of all expenses.
– Theaters received gifts totaling more than $176 million from individuals (the largest single source of contributed income), 19% of which was earmarked for capital campaigns.
– 27% of theaters were in capital campaigns in 2011. Capital campaigns generated $95 million or 20% of all contributed funds.

Theatre Facts 2011 was written by Zannie Giraud Voss, chair and professor, Division of Arts Administration at Southern Methodist University, and Glenn B. Voss, associate professor, Marketing Department, Cox School of Business, SMU, along with TCG’s director of management programs Christopher Shuff and research manager Ilana B. Rose.

LA STAGE Alliance

LA STAGE Alliance

LA STAGE Alliance is a non-profit arts service organization dedicated to building awareness, appreciation, and support for the performing arts in Greater Los Angeles.