Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Playgoer: Bush's NEA: Dana Gioia's Parting Shot:

Here's some other high/lowlights in the report.

* "The number of nonprofit theaters in the United States has doubled over a 15-year period." 1990-2005, that is. From 1,000-2,000.

* In 1990 "earned income" (as in ticket sales) made up about 65% of all revenue for those companies. Today it's down to about 50%. "Contributions" has picked up the shortfall.

* Of those "contributions" the trend over the last two decades is now demonstrably (not that you ever doubted it) toward greater individual and corporate giving and dwindling government funding. But look at this: Back in 1987 individual giving still was the highest source at 32% of total contributions. But federal/state/local government grants were a close second at 26%. By last count in 2002, the "individuals" piece of the pie is up to 40% and the government portion has sunk ten points (15.6%)--that's now fourth place, overtaken by "Foundations" (21.7%) and "Businesses" (17%).

* Blaming high ticket prices for the decline of the audience? Nonsense! "Theater ticket sales do not appear to respond strongly to price changes. Statistical models predict that a 20 percent price hike in low-end subscription or single tickets will reduce total attendance by only 2 percent." Wait there's more, in the small print of a footnote: "Further increases in attendance per performance appear to be linked with increases in the highest ticket prices that theaters offer." Go figure. I guess it's the old "if it ain't pricey, it ain't classy" phenomenon.

So what have we learned today?