TCG Report Cites Good Fiscal News for Nonprofit Theaters

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Not-for-profit theaters contributed nearly $2 billion to the U.S. economy and attracted 36.7 million attendees, according to Theatre Facts 2012, released by Theatre Communications Group (TCG). Based on the annual TCG fiscal survey, Theatre Facts examines the attendance, performance and overall fiscal state of the not-for-profit professional theater industry.

Theatre Facts 2012 shows audiences rebounding and theaters recovering from the shock of the financial recession,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director of TCG. “While working capital remains a challenge for theaters, the continued rise in attendance, coupled with positive trends in individual giving and foundation support, point towards recovery and the resilience of our field. I look forward to expanding on these findings at the November 2013 TCG Fall Forum on Governance in New York, where we’ll be sharing capitalization best practices with theater leaders and their trustees.”

Theatre Facts 2012 reflects data from the fiscal year that theaters completed between October 31, 2011 and September 30, 2012. The report presents data in three ways:

  • The Universe: a broad overview of the estimated 1,782 U.S. not-for-profit professional theaters;
  • Trend Theaters: a longitudinal analysis of the 112 theaters that completed the TCG Fiscal Survey each year since 2008; and
  • Profiled Theaters: a detailed examination of all 178 theaters that participated in the TCG Fiscal Survey 2012, broken out into six budget categories.

Theatre Facts 2012 is available at:

The six major findings from the Trend Theaters include (five-year percentages are adjusted for inflation):

  1. Attendance on the rise: Total attendance rose in each of the last two years, after a significant drop in 2009 that may be primarily attributed to the financial impact of the recession, and declined by only 1.8% between 2008 and 2012.
    • Single ticket sales at a five-year high: 2012 saw five-year highs for both single ticket income and the number of single tickets sold.
    • Subscriptions stabilize: While there were decreases over the five-year period in average subscription income (-13.7%), the number of subscribers (-15%) and the number of subscription tickets sold (-11%), there were increases from 2011 to 2012 of 3%, 1% and 3%, respectively. Subscriptions remain the second largest earned income generator for theaters, after single tickets.
  2. An overall return to pre-recession levels: Total income growth over the five-year period lagged inflation by only -0.4%, and there were increases between 2008 and 2012 in roughly half of earned income and contributed income categories.  After belt-tightening in 2009 and 2010, total expenses rose in 2011 and 2012, resulting in virtually flat total expense growth vis-à-vis 2008.
  3. Individuals and foundations leading the way: Total contributed income increased by 6.7% over the five-year period, with individuals consistently providing the greatest support, followed by foundations. The growth in these contributed income streams helped make up for significant decreases in support over the five years from the federal government, state governments and corporations.
  4. Investment in theater people: In 2012, payroll accounted for 54% of total expenses, and every payroll area was at its highest five-year average in absolute dollars and grew at a higher rate than inflation. Theaters added 3.5% more employees (full-time, part-time and jobbed-in) to their payroll from 2011. The payroll area with the strongest growth was artistic payroll, which increased 7% from 2011 to 2012 and 4.7% over the five-year period. The average number of actor employment weeks increased 3% from 2011 to 2012 and the average number of paid artists — including staff and contracted artists — grew 4.5% from 2008.
  5. 50% of theaters ended 2012 with breakeven or better CUNA: In 2009, more than half of theaters had negative CUNA (Change in Unrestricted Net Assets, or total unrestricted income minus total unrestricted expenses), while the majority experienced break-even or positive CUNA in 2008, 2010 and 2011. For the theaters with negative CUNA in 2012, the majority of those negative bottom lines were not severe; in fact, 72% of theaters in 2012 ended the year in the CUNA span between 10% below and 10% above break-even.  
  6. Working capital still needs work: 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, dropping significantly from 2008 to 2009, declining further in 2010, improving somewhat in 2011 and declining again in 2012. At the same time, capital campaigns continued to leave theaters with substantial growth in investments and new, improved or expanded facilities, with a 24% rise in fixed assets over the past five years.

Theatre Facts 2012 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; along with Ilana B. Rose, associate director of research and collective action, TCG; and Laurie Baskin, director of research, policy and collective action, TCG.

A narrative version of Theatre Facts 2012 that provides case studies and anecdotes from prominent theater leaders will be published in American Theatre magazine and posted at in November. Theatre Facts 2012 will be featured at the 2013 TCG Fall Forum on Governance: Investing in Vitality as part of a focus on capitalization strategies to support the long-term financial health of participating theaters.


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.