Theatre Communications Group Releases 40th Annual Research Report: Theatre Facts 2019

December 10, 2020

Not-for-profit theatres contributed nearly $2.8 billion to the U.S. economy and attracted 38 million attendees, according to Theatre Facts 2019, released by Theatre Communications Group (TCG). Based on the annual TCG Fiscal Survey, Theatre Facts is the only in-depth report that examines the attendance, performance, and overall fiscal state of the U.S. professional not-for-profit theatre field. Theatre Facts 2019 represents the 40th and final edition of the research report in this format. Going forward, TCG will work with partners like SMU DataArts to reassess what research efforts are most needed as the theatre field recovers and returns from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For over 45 years, TCG has provided in-depth longitudinal research on the state of the field, from attendance numbers to expenses to working capital,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director, TCG. “Theatre Facts 2019 provides a critical perspective on the fiscal state of our theatre ecology before COVID-19, and the largest protest for racial justice in our country’s history, transformed our field. As a vital historical record, Theatre Facts 2019 documents the financial successes and challenges theatres faced, helping us collectively imagine new ways of supporting theatres and theatre makers going forward.”

“This report is a celebration of the enduring importance and resiliency of the American theatre field and those who create and support it,” said Zannie Giraud Voss, director, SMU DataArts. “Ultimately, the communal nature of arts participation will be a strength to communities hungry to come together again and affirm existential meaning after prolonged isolation, trauma, and polarization.”

Theatre Facts 2019 reflects data from the fiscal year that theatres completed between October 31, 2018 and September 30, 2019. Following an Executive Summary, the report presents data in three ways:

    The Universe: a broad overview of the estimated 1,953 U.S. professional not-for-profit theatres;
    Trend Theatres: a longitudinal analysis of the 84 theatres that completed the TCG Fiscal Survey each year from 2015 through 2019; and
    Profiled Theatres: a detailed examination of all 129 theatres that participated in TCG Fiscal Survey 2019, with data broken out into six budget categories based on annual expenses.

Theatre Facts 2019 is available here.

Unless otherwise noted, all of the financial changes reported in this press release reflect average, inflation-adjusted figures for the Trend Theatres for the 5-year period from 2015 to 2019. Key findings include:

  • While both earned and contributed income growth surpassed inflation, the chief driver of total income growth was earned income. The 5-year growth rates were 17.2% for earned income, 1.1% for contributed income, and 9.1% for expenses.
  • Average CUNA (Change in Unrestricted Net Assets, or the difference between total unrestricted income and total expenses) was positive every year. However, the annual percentage of Trend Theatres ending the fiscal year in the black diminished over time. By 2019, fewer than half of the Trend Theatres had a positive bottom line.
  • Total ticket income grew by 10%, with subscription and single ticket income representing the primary sources of earned income annually. Average single ticket income was 13.6% higher in 2019 than in 2015, while subscription income was 5.2% higher. The average number of subscribers was highest in 2015, falling 4.1% by 2019. Theatres sold 4.1% more single tickets overall from 2015 to 2019. This suggests that ticket prices increased at a faster pace than attendance.
  • Growth outpaced inflation for nearly every category of contributed income. Individuals were by far the greatest source of contributed income each year. Average combined contributions from trustees and other individuals increased by 17.4%. There were also increases in the average number of other individual donors per theatre over time and in the average amount per gift.
  • There were more full-time and part-time employees in 2019 than in 2015, as well as more fee-based or jobbed-in workers, and there was year-on-year growth in each of the three payroll areas. Payroll expenses accounted for 56.2% of total expenses in 2019.
  • Capital campaigns have increased theatres’ long-term investments and fixed assets. However, the success of those campaigns has not translated into sufficient levels of readily available funds to meet daily needs. Negative working capital, experienced by roughly 55% of theatres every year, indicates that a theatre is borrowing funds internally or externally to meet its daily operating needs. Forty-three percent of the Trend Theatres had negative working capital in every year. This suggests that many theatres encounter serious cash flow crunches and may face serious financial trouble.

For further information on the changes experienced by the field between 2015 and 2019 and on differences in income, attendance, and expenses between theatres of various sizes, see the Trend Theatres and Profiled Theatres sections of the full report at Theatre Facts 2019 is available here.

Theatre Communication Group’s Theatre Facts 2019 was written by Zannie Giraud Voss, professor and director of DataArts at Southern Methodist University (SMU); Glenn B. Voss, professor emeritus and DataArts research director, SMU; Daniel Fonner, associate director for research, SMU DataArts; Adrian Budhu, deputy director and COO, TCG; Teresa Eyring, executive director and CEO, TCG; and Laurie Baskin, director of Research, Policy & Collective Action, TCG.

Learn more from Theatre Communications Group (TCG), here.