Financial health of performing arts center's residents varies
By Marilyn Bowden
Three years away from the target date to move to a new performing arts center, the financial health of the planned users of the center varies, principals say.
Despite a month-long strike last fall that nearly forced cancellation of the season, the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra finished its fiscal year in the black, said Robert E. Levinson, governing council chairman.
The Philharmonic, under the musical direction of James Judd, met its expenses of $9.8 million with $3.5 million in earned income and $6.3 from contributions, grants and bequests, he said.
This is the third year in a row the orchestra has balanced the budget, Mr. Levinson said, but this year nothing was left over to reduce its $2.5 million deficit from the past.
"If we are to put this orchestra on a firm footing," he said, "we're going to have to eliminate that deficit and - even more important - build up the kind of endowment that an outstanding orchestra like this one deserves."
Florida Grand Opera ended last season with a small deficit, said General Director & CEO Bob Heuer, but "this is unusual. We have been in fairly good financial shape and we're in a position where we can get that solved."
The Opera, at 64 the oldest of the five resident companies targeted for the new arts center, has no accumulated debt, he said. Its annual budget is a little over $10 million, he said, with about half coming from earned revenues and half from contribution.
Because opera is labor-intensive - with elaborate costumes and sets requiring as many as 300 people backstage - the move to a bigger facility will raise costs significantly, Mr. Heuer said. Performances are now staged at Dade County Auditorium.
"Our rent will be very similar to what we now pay," he said, "but there are lots of other costs. More complicated productions will require more stagehands, and so on.
"But on the other hand, we believe that patrons and ticket buyers will be willing to pay more.
"It's hard to convince them to pay $150 to go to Dade County Auditorium."
Mr. Heuer said the opera continues to develop an audience.
"Across the country opera is one of the few arts drawing younger audiences," he said. "That bodes well for the future. Our earnings will potentially increase."
Mr. Heuer said the opera is already planning its first season in the new center, which will culminate in a new opera based on Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.
Judy Drucker said the Concert Association of Florida, which brings Broadway shows to Dade County Auditorium, has a deficit of $1.5 million.
"The move will be a challenge," she said. "We're delighted to move into a beautiful new hall. It will be a catalyst to encourage many more to come than before. I've been waiting for this for very many years."
The larger space, especially backstage, will make it possible for productions to be mounted in South Florida full-scale, exactly as seen in New York, Ms. Drucker said.
"It's going to very much more exciting."