Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Rolling of the Eyes


Yes, well, I suppose in some sense the failure to sell enough tickets is underrated as a cause of arts institutions' financial distress, but lordy. If an organization isn't selling enough tickets, you do have to look at WHY. Does the marketing stink? Is the venue inaccessible or unknown? Is the programming too esoteric for the size of the venue? Does the programming just suck? Are the performers unknowns or undistinguished?

In any event, NYCO, which filed for bankruptcy today, had a plethora of problems over the years and was in serious financial trouble before. I really need to find out more of the details of their current situation, including what the budgets were for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. I mean, there are limits to how much I can speculate: the company was trying to raise $7 million in September to keep going and $20 million by the end of the year. I have no idea how much of that was for current operations, how much was toward existing debt, how much was for future seasons.

I do know a few things, though, some from the Times article I link to above:

  • NYCO had large costs and almost no income during the year the State Theater was being renovated.
  • There's undoubtedly room in NYC for a small company that uses more than one venue, but after decades in Lincoln Center (and before that City Center), NYCO wasn't it.
  • The company ran through its endowment in the last five to ten years, reducing it from $55 million at its peak to $4.5 million today.
  • There's an accumulated deficit of $44 million. (Again: when your company has an accumulated deficit that size, George, don't say the company's financial condition is the best in several years!)
  • A company putting on 16 performances a year can't possibly sell enough tickets or raise enough funds to support a full-time staff of 25, which I believe I have read is what they had.
  • Putting on a brand-new opera such as Anna Nicole is expensive. The sets and costumes were those used by the Royal Opera House for the world premiere. NYCO would have had to pay to rent them and ship them to NYC, and as recently as the summer didn't know whether they would be able to come up with their share of the production costs. There would presumably be a hefty royalty to the composer and librettist. Would renting the parts have been additional?


Alex Ross said...

Selling tickets wasn't NYCO's main problem—at least not in the past couple of seasons. Anna Nicole sold out. Shows last season seemed to do well.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thanks, Alex!