Friday, December 26, 2008


The National Endowment for the Arts has just published a study providing benchmarks for non-profit theaters.

  • Between 1990 and 2005, the number of non-profit theaters nationwide jumped 100% "to almost 2000.

  • But attendance for musical theater is flat as a percentage of population and attendance at non-musical events, including plays, is down both in numbers and percentage of population. Overall theater attendance is down 16%.

  • The drop isn’t due to ticket prices which, when increased by 20%, resulted in attendance going down only 2%. It appears more due to expanded in-home entertainment, declining arts education, and lower media coverage. Other studies also cite competition for leisure time in general.

  • Nationwide, the supply or number of theaters is outstripping demand. The growth and management of theatrical organizations has not yet been matched by equally robust growth in audiences.

  • Business contributors to non-profit theaters over the last 15 years are down 3.5%, while contributions from individuals is up 8.1% and foundations 2.8%. Government contributions are down 10.6%.

  • Individuals make 40.2% of contributions to non-profit theaters, foundations 21.7%, businesses 17%, and government 15.7%.

  • Non-profit theater earned income as a share of revenue is down 13% since 1990, and contributed income and other types of revenue grew proportionately to a more even mix.

Analysis from other sources shows that attendance at touring Broadway at 15.3 million in 2007 has been declining slightly since 2004, but still higher than 2003. Broadway in New York at 10.4 million last year for musicals was slightly above the average of the last 5 years, while attendance at plays at 1.87 million was above the average, bucking the trend in the NEA study nationwide.

Concert attendance, at 51 million last year was down more than 19%, but down just 5.3% on a per show basis.

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