Arts center expected to bring more money, higher bills to companies
By Shannon Pettypiece
More performances, more venues and more money are among the benefits its main tenants expect to derive from the Miami Performing Arts Center when it opens in several years.
The new center is to become the main venue, though not the only one, for its four resident companies - the Concert Association of Florida, New World Symphony, Miami City Ballet and Florida Grand Opera.
But the center also will bring higher operating costs for the resident companies and in some cases increased ticket prices, officials said.
Judy Drucker, founder of the Concert Association of Florida, said rent at the center will be twice what her association now pays at Jackie Gleason Theatre in Miami Beach but about the same as rates at Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Sunrise.
Ms. Drucker said it's too early to tell if the increased cost will be passed on to ticketholders.
The Performing Arts Center, now rising on Biscayne Boulevard between 13th and 14th streets, is scheduled to open in fall 2006.
The Florida Grand Opera plans to raise ticket prices to pay for its use of the Performing Arts Center, said CEO Robert Heuer. He said the opera levies a $1 ticket surcharge at Dade County Auditorium but will have a $3 surcharge at the Performing Arts Center.
Miami City Ballet General Manager Mark Rosenblum said rent at the Performing Arts Center will be more than the ballet pays at Jackie Gleason Theatre but less than the rent at its main venue in Palm Beach County and the same as at the Broward center.
For the New World Symphony, the financial impact is not clear because it owns its current venue. New World Executive Director Howard Herring said it's like comparing "apples and oranges" when looking at the cost of playing at its Lincoln Theatre home versus at the Performing Arts Center.
While rent will go up, so will the number of performances the companies can stage.
The Florida Grand Opera expects to double its performances and will have the ability to alternate two operas because the Performing Arts Center will be able to store more sets, Mr. Heuer said.
"Someone could come into town and see one opera on a Friday night and see another opera on Saturday," said Mr. Heuer, who said that is something aficionados can do only in the world's largest cities.
Ms. Drucker said she plans 40-50 performances annually at the Performing Arts Center. She currently stages 48 in Miami-Dade and Broward counties combined.
The Miami City Ballet will keep its 17 performances a year in Miami-Dade, most of which will be at the Performing Arts Center, and the New World Symphony will have 10 of its 60 concerts each year at the center.
None of the resident companies plans performances exclusively at the Performing Arts Center. All plan smaller shows at other venues.
The opera plans to open its own theater one-fourth the size of the Performing Arts Center's ballet opera house in 2006, and the New World Symphony expects to break ground on its own hall in 2007.
The ballet plans to keep some performances at Jackie Gleason Theatre, and the concert association plans to continue performing at the Broward center and perhaps at Jackie Gleason.
Although rent will rise for all the companies, officials said the additional performances and attention they will get at the center will increase fundraising and ticket sales.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the Performing Arts Center will have a positive impact on the size of the audiences and the growth of the donor base in Miami," Mr. Herring said. "It has happened that way in every city."
Mr. Rosenblum said the ballet is concerned that it may lose some of its core audience when it moves but hopes to pick up more new fans.
"As we've moved from theater to theater, there is a certain number of subscribers that get very comfortable in a venue," Mr. Rosenblum said. "But our marketing director is very confident that there will be a draw and the single-ticket sales will be very strong in the early years of the center."
More than two years in delays at the Performing Arts Center have had an impact on the resident companies, but all said it is something the arts community is used to dealing with.
Mr. Heuer said the delays have caused the opera to push back the world premier of "Anna Karenina," an opera being written for the opening season. It was commissioned by the opera along with companies in Detroit and St. Louis that have had to postpone their performances with each delay at the Miami Performing Arts Center.
Ms. Drucker said she will begin programming in the next few months for the opening season. If the opening date gets pushed back again, she said, she has enough flexibility to move shows to another venue.
"The music world goes through this type of stuff all the time," Ms. Drucker said. "I really felt all along it wouldn't open until 2006 or 2007. Every theater has these problems."