EDITORIAL – The Economics of Reopening the Arts

(Ohio)Requirements for reopening present a severe economic challenge, and even in the arts, it all comes down to the numbers.

Governor DeWine recently announced reopening guidelines for performing arts theaters in Ohio. Venues like the Performing Arts Center at Kent State at Tuscarawas (PAC) fall under this category and we cannot wait to welcome everyone back safely to share another live experience. However, the capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements for reopening present a severe economic challenge, and even in the arts, it all comes down to the numbers.

Imagine that the PAC is bringing “Your Favorite Band” to New Philadelphia. Depending on your preferences, the fee for “Your Favorite Band” is anywhere from $15,000 to over $100,000 for one performance. Let’s say that you have fairly modest tastes and the band is paid $25,000.

The PAC has 1,089 seats. Divide the band’s fee by the number of seats and that’s a reasonably priced $23 ticket.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

The band’s fee is just the beginning. The PAC employs stage crew; feeds and houses the members of “Your Favorite Band” and their entourage; rents extra equipment; advertises the show; and pays ticketing, music licensing, insurance, and credit card fees.

Those other expenses – which don’t include the overhead expenses to keep the venue lit, cleaned, heated and staffed — often equal as much as the artist’s fee.

With a price tag of $50,000, a sell-out at $46 per ticket is required to simply cover expenses for the performance. Again, without covering any of the PAC’s overhead expenses.

Now introduce the state’s reopening guidelines with a capacity restriction of 15% and requiring six feet of distance between patrons. In the strictest adherence to the rule, the PAC is reduced to 163 seats. Now tickets for “Your Favorite Band” jump to $307 each which is unaffordable for a majority of the community.

In addition to the economics, we are a part of the performing arts industry’s worldwide ecosystem. Broadway and touring productions are on hold until 2021 at the earliest. Many bands have announced they won’t be touring until 2021 either. International artists aren’t able to acquire visas to tour in America if they are even willing to leave their own countries.

Even with all this news, please don’t be discouraged. We’re not. Shows will return to the PAC. Along with creativity and hard work, we need your patience and understanding. Patience when we aren’t able to present “Your Favorite Band” immediately after reopening. Understanding if our initial offerings are limited because, after being completely closed for five months, we are managing our resources wisely to ensure the PAC will be in New Philadelphia for generations to come.

There are hundreds of studies highlighting the benefits of the arts, both to individuals and whole communities. At its essence, the arts are about bringing people together to experience something beautiful, thought-provoking, breathtaking, and memorable. It adds to the economic and cultural vibrancy of the area. As humans, we crave the social interaction and the shared experience only live entertainment can provide and we need that now more than ever.

While we might look different in the short term, the PAC is ready to shine again and I’m confident the community will continue to support us and the arts well into the future. We cannot wait to welcome you back!

Submitted by:
David Mitchell is the General Manager of the Performing Arts Center at Kent State Tuscarawas in New Philadelphia, Ohio.

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