Monday, April 16, 2007

Counting on being "too big to be allowed to fail"

Two high-profile arts non-profits on the East Coast are right now engaged in a familiar sort of public brinkmanship, with a distinct odor in both cases of "save us from ourselves."

Having worked in big-city regional non-profit theater myself I was quite startled to learn that the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey is on the verge of collapse. (I'm actually familiar with a couple of the principals involved, since both the departed CEO and the current managing director were hired away in recent years from major Chicago theater companies.) The Paper Mill has long been a poster child for robust successful suburban repertory theaters; twenty years ago they led the nation with a whopping 45,000 subscribers.

So the state they've fallen to is pretty startling: fewer than 20,000 subscribers now (which is a far more drastic falloff than the general national trend), and a budget for the current season which depended on increasing annual fundraising by almost $3 million in one gulp. They're now in so many words daring legislators to let the "official state theater of New Jersey" collapse, with perhaps predictable results.

There's nowhere near enough information in the media coverage to be clear on how this situation came to pass for Paper Mill, but a quick glance at their tax returns on Guidestar does support what Playbill wrote, that "the board at Paper Mill has either not had the ability to get outside contributions or has not seen the need due to the once-high subscribership." It's hard to see that as anything but seriously negligent in a society where per-capita individual contributions for the arts quintupled after inflation from 1964 to 2004.

Meanwhile in Miami, the mammoth Carnival Center for the Performing Arts which opened to huge fanfare only last October is apparently already in financial free-fall. The thing appears to have been a financial Potemkin village actually: a half-billion dollar multi-facility arts complex that opens with zero endowment? For which the pro formas assumed operational profitability from day one? Almost no onsite parking (in South Florida??), and the operating budget didn't include the cost of stagehands? Surely no one with any experience running an actual arts center (or a service-sector business of any kind) was in charge of the planning on this thing.

All the bailout scenarios being discussed are fairly gruesome but they include at least one that's fairly innovative: blackmail the city's major newspaper. Quoting from that article in the area's business newspaper: "The Miami Herald...has a contract to sell its land around the center for $190 million, but the unsold land's value would plummet if the center shut down. Because the land's value soared about $180 million as the center rose nearby with the Herald's strong editorial push, the paper could protect its holding by handing the center, say, 10% of the gain the center caused." The paper does seem to have been covering the center's problems reasonably bluntly, anyway. And what a fine mess it is.

1 comment:

Adi said...

Oes Tsetnoc one of the ways in which we can learn seo besides Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa. By participating in the Oes Tsetnoc or Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa we can improve our seo skills. To find more information about Oest Tsetnoc please visit my Oes Tsetnoc pages. And to find more information about Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa please visit my Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa pages. Thank you So much.
Oes Tsetnoc | Semangat Mengembalikan Jati Diri Bangsa