Friday, August 28, 2009

The Case for Confidence

Posted by Bruce Miller
(This is a re-posting of a previously published blog entry.)

"At Barksdale and Theatre IV we remain cautious but confident." That's what I said at the end of the previous blog posting, and that's how Phil and I respond to queries from national arts leaders who bring up the bad news from Wisconsin. With the demise of great colleague theatres such as TheatreVirginia, Madison Rep, Mill Mountain Playhouse in Roanoke, and Charlotte Rep, we expect to entertain questions about our financial health.

The good news is this. For years, our Boards of Trustees have been working intelligently and strategically to ensure that Barksdale and Theatre IV will not follow in the footsteps of these now defunct nonprofit companies. We have engaged in prudent and responsible business planning.

What follows are the five cornerstones that support our confidence, particularly as it relates to the recent closing of Madison Repertory Theatre.

1. The Greater Richmond metro area population as of 2008 is 1,225,626--more than twice the 555,626 people who comprise the metro area population of Madison, WI. This means our population should be two times more able to sustain both the for-profit "Broadway" series co-produced by CenterStage and a nonprofit major professional theatre like Barksdale.

2. According to IRS forms 990 for the year 2008 (the most recent year available):

Barksdale and Theatre IV had combined annual revenue of $5,049,376; Madison Rep had annual revenue of $2,023,579.

74% of Barksdale and Theatre IV's annual revenue was earned through ticket sales and tour fees, and only 26% came in through contributions. Only 53% of Madison Rep's annual revenue was earned through ticket sales, and 47% was dependent upon contributions.

Barksdale and Theatre IV ended fiscal 2008 with a positive fund balance of $1,761,395; Madison Rep ended fiscal 2008 with a negative fund balance of -$424,688.

3. Theatre IV fully owns and is able to borrow against the multi-million dollar historic Empire Theatre.

4. Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV have developed highly diverse revenue streams, earning significant funds from ticket sales at three major venues and extensive touring throughout Virginia and 32 surrounding states.

5. During all the years when Barksdale and Theatre IV were asked to assist with various efforts to develop Richmond CenterStage, the Richmond leaders of CenterStage pledged not to compete with Theatre IV with regard to our core business--story-based plays and musicals for children and their families. CenterStage pledged not to book in our competitors' productions of major titles in which Theatre IV has invested millions of dollars, the productions we regularly revive from our repertoire. These major titles include Annie, A Christmas Carol, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Disney's High School Musical, Peter Pan, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, Seussical, The Sound of Music, and The Wizard of Oz.

Conversely, Barksdale and Theatre IV have acknowledged CenterStage's need to mount an annual "Broadway" series for adult audiences, and to book in non-competitive, television-based children's programs such as Sesame Street Live, Dora the Explorer, etc.

If CenterStage honors its promises, we believe that Barksdale Theatre, Theatre IV and CenterStage's "Broadway" series will all thrive in our mid-sized market. Surely that is the goal. If CenterStage's leaders are true to their word, we will have a win-win for the entire community.
As I said, we remain confident, but we are not throwing caution to the wind. We continue to do all we can to ensure the success of CenterStage, while working hard also to build up the financial health of Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV, Richmond's major professional theatre.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

Jody said...

Thanks, Bruce. At times like these, information is one of our best reinforcements. Glad to know that "attention" is being paid...