Value of Theatre to Community

spiwak2005

Active Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2004
Location
Utica, NY
So you've beaten off the naysayers about the importance and value of having a professional "rentable" theatre in your public school. Even though the taxpayers still complain that it's a waste of money, you've managed to keep it operating. You've made presentations to the Board of Education showing all the great educational opportunities such a space offers. You've shown everyone pictures of performances and lists of past and future events. But the only thing they want to hear about is the money - how much money is the theatre bringing in (through rentals to community and professional groups), how can we make more and how can it help to win over those that still see it as a waste??

I have been managing our small (less than 1500 K-12) school district's 900 seat venue for almost 3 years now. We are showing substantial increases in our revenue over an incredibly short period of time (the theatre has only been open 3 years). The last formal presentation I made to the Board ended just as my opening statement - "Stop showing us this PowerPoint presentation that you obviously put a lot of effort into. We don't care. Just show us the money!" And of course, no matter what you show them financially, it's never enough.

While at the moment my job and the theatre's existence are not in jeopardy, I realize that it's always important to "tell our story" to as many people as possible. I have set up a meeting with our Chamber of Commerce to go over upcoming events and anticipated audience numbers. I plan on encouraging THEM to capitalize on the traffic we are bringing to the community by putting up signage welcoming theatre patrons to town (and to their restaurants, stores, etc). Does anyone know of any research or any guesstimates for what the economic impact is for each audience member? Any other figures/stats that I might want to present to them?

Please share any stories you might have on this topic. Thanks!
 
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SweetBennyFenton

Active Member
Joined
Feb 12, 2007
Location
Portland OR
My college was in a small town surrounded by nothing. Because of this, the theatre drew crowds from miles around. Our theatre was a focal point of the arts for the area. Posters went in every shop window for counties away.

In the school I teach in now, I work in a city full of theatre. Our shows bring very few community members to our campus. Most people don't even know we have a theatre unless they are a student or faculty.

So, my only input on this post is that it really depends on the place. If your theater is the only large one in town, the value is huge. If you are one of five, it may be hard to keep it up.

Good luck.
 

Van

CBMod
CB Mods
Premium Member
Joined
Jul 27, 2006
Location
Portland, Or.
I'll do some looking into some of the research we've done. Estimate are going to vary radically from economic zone to zone. You may want to check out the TCG website. They do a lot of surveying of Theatres and introduce "economic Impact" studies every year or so. I believe the average amount spent for a theatre goer in Downtown Portland is $200.00 < excluding the price of tickets> Which is typically monies spent on ; food, parking,shopping. So the impact can be quite large on the ecomnomy of a smaller town. Imagine , Hosting a broadway tour show < there are a ton of second run tours that play houses like yours all the time.> People comming in from all over each spending money on food, drink, shopping, and if timed right they may just see something in a shop they just, " Must Have!". Sorry to hear of you experiences with the Board. To me, any income that a theatre facility can generate rather than consume is a huge bonus.
 

spiwak2005

Active Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2004
Location
Utica, NY
Thanks Van! Great stuff - I checked out the TCG website and found a lot of valuable info. It's stuff I already knew or hoped I knew, but it's important to have someone else to back me up.

Arlo Guthrie played to a sold-out crowd in our theatre Friday night. Talking to the Chamber after they must have seen a "bump" in their business should help!
 

SHARYNF

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2006
If the board is really saying that to you, them IMO the only thing you can do is pack the meeting with kids and community members who went to the performances and have THEM say what it means to THEM.

Sharyn
 

Chris Chapman

Active Member
Joined
May 25, 2006
Location
Greenville, Michigan, United States
SPiwak,

I run a 716 set venue in mid-Michigan in a very economically depressed area. Where are you getting funding for bringing Acts in? Is that through the boards, or do you have to go Grant hunting to sponsor a touring season? We backed away from extensive road shows in our venue because of the high overhead, small venue size and economic condition of our audiences. I'd be VERY interested in your solutions.

-Chris
 

spiwak2005

Active Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2004
Location
Utica, NY
Chris -

Since we are a school, we are NOT in the business of "bringing acts in". Touring artists are generally sponsored by community groups of some sort, so they assume all the risk and all the costs. I have found an amazingly large number of regional arts organizations that are willing to rent our facility and take care of all the costs associated with promoting their event. We do get a small budget approved by the board of ed, but certainly not enough to bring acts in. What I have done in terms of sponsorship is talk to larger regional chains (banks, grocery stores, convenience stores) to help fund school events. Even in an economically depressed area, chains love the "good will" of helping out educational facilities. That's about all I've done with that side of the business. Hope that helps!
 

avkid

Not a New User
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Feb 17, 2004
Location
Howell, NJ
Phone calls are cheap, you don't nedd huge ad campaigns.
Footwork, it's all footwork.
Get out there and meet the people who matter.
 

derekleffew

Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2007
Location
Las Vegas, NV, USA
My college was in a small town surrounded by nothing. Because of this, the theatre drew crowds from miles around. Our theatre was a focal point of the arts for the area. Posters went in every shop window for counties away.

In the school I teach in now, I work in a city full of theatre. Our shows bring very few community members to our campus. Most people don't even know we have a theatre unless they are a student or faculty.

<snip>
Sounds as though you should teach a Course in Marketing at your current school. The most important word in "show business" is the latter. Without it, no one will come. What's the saying "...alone in an empty room, in the dark, trying to emote" ? YMMV.