7. Presentation: Buffalo Theater Ensemble. Dr. Daniel Lloyd, Dean Liberal Arts; Diana Martinez, Director MAC; Connie Canady Howard, Professor Theater.
Lloyd introduced theater faculty members, Connie Canady Howard and Amelia Barrett. Howard briefly reviewed the history of the ensemble and some of the data about performance runs and revenues, including sudden demands and reversals of recent years. They began a pledge drive, but someone shut it down and stopped the acceptance of pledges. Howard listed benefits and impact of BTE. Would be possible to return in Fall 2016. Support and belief in the value are needed. Packets provided to the BOT.
Lloyd reviewed theater program profile. Listed courses, compared FTE enrollments among different fine arts programs: student FTEs in theater is the smallest. Commented on the decision to end support of BTE. Showed slide of declining ticket revenue and attendance. Subs had declined but bumped up in the last year 2013. Gave figures on pledge drives, compared with New Philharmonic. Mentioned very limited number of students directly involved as actors or tech on shows.
Chair Hamilton asked about the slide. Says that revenue seems to be driven by the number of shows. What is the story behind that? Lloyd says that year was anomalous because the Mac was closed. Ham says, you need to have more performances in order to make up. Would like to see analysis, not clear what decision was based on. Lloyd says that the decision was made to approach BTE and New Phil with a different accounting system. In-kind contributions were a considerable factor. Ham says that the accounting and in-kind contributions have to be understood. More performances needed to recoup fixed costs.
Bernstein commented in terms of revenue per performance. Revenue increased per show. Lloyd says the number of tickets is constant across seasons. Bernstein asks how to account for revenue performance being higher. It looks like having more performances would yield more revenue.
Mazzochi asks if the students’ tickets are included in numbers of tickets. [some comments are inaudible] Howard explains that they are, but their tickets are often discounted.
Bernstein comments on the faculty presentation being at odds with Lloyd’s presentation. What it tells me is that the faculty is justifying BTE and why it should have continued, and you are telling us why it should have been discontinued. Lloyd says, we were asked to look at it from a different perspective. Next part of the presentation is about moving forward, will shed more light.
Mazzochi asks if there are any numbers on the chart that the faculty disagree with. [response inaudible] Lloyd states that the presentation was developed collaboratively.
Martinez argues that no one can make back their investment in a 3-week run. If we bring this back, let’s do it right. There are new factors in the market, musical theater at the Paramount. Their subscribers are ours, also Drury Lane. We have to understand the market we’re competing in. Very difficult to be a non-profit and earn revenue like a commercial theater. Very hard to break even based on ticket sales. DIfficult to take an educational model and make money, especially in a small theater, the numbers aren’t there. Community theater typically has a community-based infrastructure that generates financial support – BTE does not have this. Adding new shows to the MAC will require staff. Technical staff can be done by show instead of by permanent staff with salary and benefits. Wrong to limit shows by size of cast. Advertise throughout run of show. With planning, move from 60/40 to 70/30% revenue/support. Fundraising potential is poor right now – corporations do not want to put their name on our brand right now. IL Arts Council grants are frozen. Project $146k loss in year 1, tapering off down to about $100k after 4 years. Need a year to catch up on applying for grants.
Bernstein asks whether it’s possible to do more than 4 performances/week. Martinez: adding two weeks to each run adds a lot of shows. Very aggressive. If the sales are there, add another show. Have to look at equity contracts. Can’t afford to jump a category.
Bernstein asks who would fill role of Executive Director. Martinez: part time job at $30k. Bernstein: would the 1000 signers of the petition convert to subscribers? Martinez: lots of them are students, have to be real. No deep pool of big donors. Need to focus on grants. Bernstein: type of productions, is there a healthy tension between edifying the community and selling tickets? Martinez: faculty is not worried about commercial sales. It would make my life easier if it was more commercially appealing. This is more of an education program that should be funded. Hard for me to assume responsibility for revenues without having any say in the programming.
Mazzochi asks what if BTE is just using the MAC as a space, and they developed all their own management infrastructure? What is the cost? Martinez: that would not cost much, but the reality is, they are us, we are them, evolved organically, not so simple to split apart the roles. Mazz: would BTE be displacing any other shows? Martinez: not a problem.
Bernstein: compliments Martinez and says must strike balance for financial responsibility.
Ham: everyone is very appreciative of the time and energy spent on this presentation.
Wozniak: this is something we should be putting money into. We wouldn’t be putting money into a high-priced firm that is costing us tons of money. I took theater classes here as a student too.
Ham: No vote scheduled for tonight. Asks Bernstein to confer with Pres Collins and develop next steps.