Is there money in theater? Where does it come from? Who gets it?

tax-dayLike the rest of us, theater companies have to file taxes. This tax day, we look at some information from the most recent publicly available tax returns (generally 2011 or 2012) for some major and independent Philadelphia companies.

Company income varies widely, with Walnut Street bringing in over $15 million, and some small companies a fraction of that. Management compensation generally follows company revenue:

Company Revenue* Highest paid employee Compensation**
Walnut Street Theatre $15,799,616 Bernard Havard $316,414
Arden Theatre Company $5,455,528 Terrence J Nolen $100,966
Philadelphia Theatre Company $3,487,623 Sarah Garonzik $114,779
FringeArts $3,404,158 Nick Stuccio $105,000
Wilma Theater $3,234,414 Blanka Zizka $88,683
Pig Iron Theatre Company $813,983 John Frisbee $42,975
Lantern Theater Company $785,272 Anne Shuff $52,000
InterAct Theatre Company $702,447 Seth Rozin $46,500
Theatre Exile $619,763 Deborah Block $18,000
Plays and Players $362,015 [not listed] >$10,000***
Quintessence Theatre Group $233,759 Alexander Burns $12,400
Inis Nua Theatre Company $189,605 Tom Reing $23,250
New City Stage Company $135,705 Ginger Dayle $27,609
Curio Theatre Company $103,533 Paul Kuhn $1,656****

*Revenue should not be confused with operating budget; **W2/1099 Compensation, or salary. Total compensation with incentives, health benefits, and others can add to this. Bernard Havard’s total compensation comes to $669,133, Nick Stuccio’s $117,135, for example; ***Estimate; ****Highest listed on form 990EZ, non-officers may receive more.

So where do theaters get their money?

Bernard Havard heads by far the most financially successful Philadelphia theater, the Walnut Street Theatre.

Bernard Havard heads by far the most financially successful Philadelphia theater, the Walnut Street Theatre. With benefits, his total compensation in 2012 reached $669,133.

Local theaters get their money from a variety of sources: ticket sales, donations, grants, theater schools, concessions. The general split seems to be about 50% grants and contributions and about 40% ticket sales, with various miscellany. Alone among the larger companies, the Walnut gets almost 80% of its revenue from ticket sales and subscriptions. At the other end of the spectrum, Theatre Exile and InterAct Theatre received less than 20% of their revenue from ticket sales. Government grants (which only seem to go to the big hitters) make up very little of any theater’s revenue and never more than 5%. Smaller theaters also seem to rely more heavily on ticket sales as a proportion of their income, receiving a smaller share of donations and grants.

A few companies see substantial revenue from rental income or theater schools (although these are often operated at a loss). And fans of Quig’s will not be surprised that “theater social club” (of which Quig’s is a major component) contributes fully 40% of Plays and Players’ revenue.

Here’s a revenue breakdown for a handful of companies (see comments for People’s Light & Theatre Company):

Walnut Street Theatre

Ticket sales: $12,291,390 (77.8%)
Contributions and grants: $1,663,420 (10.5%)
>>Government grants: $117,842 (0.7%)
Concessions: $486,650 (3.1%)
Rental income (gross): $443,569 (2.8%^)
Theater school: $297,529 (1.9%)
Investment income: $200,826 (1.3%)

Total revenue: $15,799,616

Arden Theatre Company

Contributions and grants: $2,865,220 (52.5%)
>> Government grants: $98,792 (1.8%)
Ticket sales: $2,249,176 (41.2%)
Theater school: $211,877 (3.8%)
Concessions: $85,425 (1.6%)
Investment income: $12,203 (0.2%)
Rental income: $11,694 (0.2%)

Total revenue: $5,455,528

Philadelphia Theatre Company

Contributions and grants: $2,122,343 (60.8%)
>> Government grants: $46,210 (1.3%)
Ticket sales/subscriptions: $1,254,533 (36.0%)

Total revenue: $3,489,623

Fringe Arts (dba Philadelphia Fringe Festival)

Contributions and grants: $2,387,461 (70.1%)
>>Government grants: $74,233 (2.2%)
Ticket sales/gross receipts: $1,013,938 (29.8%)
Investment income: $2,759 (0.1%)

Total revenue: $3,404,158

Wilma Theater

Contributions and grants: $1,794,774 (55.5%)
>>Government grants: $52,133 (1.6%)
Ticket sales: $1,133,562 (35.0%)
Rental income: $76,234 (2.4%)
Concessions: $33,041 (1.0%)
Investment income: $30,206 (0.9%)
Theater school: $19,425 (0.6%)

Total revenue: $3,234,414

Pig Iron Theatre Company

Contributions and grants: $548,683 (67.4%)
>> Government grants: $38,928 (4.7%)
Educational workshops: $185,844 (22.8%)
Philadelphia productions: $51,785 (6.4%)
Toured productions: $25,500 (3.1%)
Rental income: $3,208 (0.4%)
T-shirt sales: $944 (0.1%)
Investment income: $922 (0.1%)

Total revenue: $813,983

Lantern Theater Company

Contributions and grants: $397,126 (50.6%)
>> Government grants: $20,141 (2.6%)
Ticket sales/subscriptions: $376,405 (47.9%)
Concessions: $5,913 (0.8%)
Rental income: $2,936 (0.4%)

Total revenue: $785,272

InterAct Theatre Company

Contributions and grants: $462,199 (65.8%)
>> Government grants: $19,674 (2.8%)
Ticket sales/ subscriptions: $116,948 (16.6%)
Rental income: $106,473 (15.2%)
Educational workshops: $8,160 (1.2%)

Total revenue: $702,447

Theatre Exile

Contributions and grants: $484,414 (78.2%)
>> Government grants: $14,000 (2.3%)
Ticket sales: $84,914 (13.7%)
Tour income: $19,915 (3.2%)
Rental income: $3,335 (0.5%)

Total revenue: $619,763

Plays and Players

Theater social club: $147,015 (40.6%)
Rental income: $105,046 (29.0%)
Contributions and grants: $61,101 (16.9%)
Ticket sales: $47,019 (13.0%)

Total revenue: $362,015

Quintessence Theatre Group

Contributions and grants: $145,640 (65.1%)
Performance revenue: $78,119 (34.9%)

Total revenue: $223,759

Inis Nua Theatre Company

Contributions and grants: $143,918 (75.9%)
Program revenue: $40,466 (21.3%)
Rental income: $1,570 (0.8%)

Total revenue: $189,605

New City Stage Company

Admissions: $69,764 (51.4%)
Contributions and grants: $65,941 (48.6%)

Total revenue: $135,705

Curio Theatre Company

Admissions: $68,015 (65.7%)
Contributions and grants: $35,518 (34.3%)

Total revenue: $103,533

^Percentage based on gross rental receipts.

All the financial data in this article was collected from publicly available tax returns, forms 990 and 990EZ, available for public viewing (with an account) at Guidestar.org.

 

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.