Hill Strategies Research on Performing Arts and Theatres

Arts Research Monitor Vol. 14 No. 1

In the latest issue: A focus on the situation of theatres and other performing arts organizations in Canada, including summaries of a survey of performing arts organizations, a fact sheet on theatre, a survey of the importance of theatre in Canadian communities, and a report on challenges and opportunities in “the changing theatre landscape”.

Performing arts 2012

Statistics Canada, March 2014
Statistics Canada's biennial performing arts survey provides information about not-for-profit and for-profit theatre, musical theatre, dinner theatre, opera, dance, musical groups (e.g., orchestras, chamber music and popular music groups) and other organizations (e.g., circus, ice skating shows). Hill Strategies has analyzed Statistics Canada’s detailed preliminary data for 2012, with a particular focus on not-for-profit organizations, for this issue of the Arts Research Monitor. Statistics Canada’s data tables are based on a sample of 622 organizations. As is the case with many large-scale surveys, larger organizations may be better represented than smaller ones.
Operating revenues were $1.48 billion for all performing arts groups in 2012, a 3.1% decrease from 2010. (The changes reported in this article have not been adjusted for inflation.)
In 2012, not-for-profit performing arts organizations in Canada had collective operating revenues of $783 million, representing 53% of the $1.48 billion sector total and a 4.5% increase from 2010. Earned revenues accounted for 49% of operating revenues, followed by public sector grants (26%), private sector contributions (24%) and other revenues (2%).
Collectively, operating expenses ($794 million) were $11 million higher than operating revenues, leaving a deficit of 4.5% of total revenues. Salaries, wages, and benefits (excluding fees paid to contract workers) accounted for 35% of not-for-profit performing arts organizations' expenses.
In 2012, total attendance was 13 million at 48,500 performances, for an average of 267 attendees per performance. On a per-performance basis, total revenues equalled $14,700, while performance-related revenues were $5,900. (Performance-related revenues include subscriptions, single ticket sales, contract production revenues, and touring income.) Total revenues per attendee were $55, with performance-related revenues amounting to $22 per attendee.
For each discipline, the key statistics on not-for-profit organizations in 2012 were as follows:

  • Theatre: Operating revenues were $364 million, a 2.1% increase from 2010. Collectively, theatre companies reported a $12.3 million deficit (3.4% of revenues). Total theatre attendance was 7.5 million at 37,100 performances, for an average of 204 attendees per performance.
  • Music organizations: Operating revenues were $188 million, a 4.4% increase from 2010. Collectively, music organizations registered a deficit of $2.3 million (1.2% of revenues). Music organizations reached 2.7 million people at 4,800 performances, for an average of 557 people per performance.
  • Opera, musical theatre, and dinner theatre organizations: Operating revenues were $104 million, a 5.9% increase from 2010. Operating expenses matched revenues, leaving a collective balanced budget in 2012. Opera, musical theatre, and dinner theatre organizations reached 1.1 million people at 3,000 performances, for an average attendance of 370.
  • Dance companies: The financial statistics for not-for-profit dance organizations were suppressed to protect confidentiality. Total dance attendance was 1.3 million at 2,500 performances, for an average of 521 attendees per performance.
  • Multidisciplinary and other performing organizations: The financial statistics for other not-for-profit organizations were suppressed to protect confidentiality. Total attendance at multidisciplinary and other performing arts organizations was 307,000 at nearly 1,100 performances, for an average of 292 attendees per performance. 

On a provincial basis, Ontario-based not-for-profit organizations accounted for $306 million in revenues in 2012 (44% of the Canadian total). The revenues of Quebec-based organizations totalled $215 million (31% of the Canadian total). Alberta-based not-for-profit performing arts organizations had operating revenues of $98 million (14%), while their British Columbia counterparts accounted for $93 million (13% of national revenues). The Statistics Canada tables also contain information about the revenues of not-for-profit organizations in four other provinces (Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador), as well as further details regarding expenses, surplus, attendance and other data.

World Theatre Day… by the numbers

Statistics Canada, March 2015
Based on various Statistics Canada sources, this brief fact sheet examines the number of theatre companies in Canada, their revenues and expenditures, theatre’s contribution to the economy, public spending on tickets, as well as the number and earnings of theatre artists and students.
According to the fact sheet, in 2014, there were:

  • 393 theatre companies in Canada, including 133 in Quebec (the highest number among the provinces).
  • 67 musical theatre and opera companies in Canada, including 29 in Ontario (most among the provinces).
  • 248 venue-based performing arts presenters in Canada, including 100 in Quebec (the highest number among the provinces). 

The 2012 Statistics Canada Performing Arts Survey found that Canadian theatre companies (including for-profit and not-for-profit companies, excluding musical theatre and opera) had total operating revenues of $444 million, total operating expenses of $461 million, and an operating deficit representing 3.7% of revenues.
The performing arts industry, including theatre companies, directly contributed $1.8 billion to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product and generated 49,000 jobs in 2010, according to data from the Culture Satellite Account.
Statistics Canada’s revised Survey of Household Spending groups spending on live performing arts with spending on live sports. Average household spending on live sporting and performing arts events was $126 in 2013. The Survey of Household Spending shows large shifts which may reflect inaccuracies in the estimates or possibly real changes: the 2013 estimate ($126) was a 39% increase from the 2012 estimate ($91).
According to estimates of the employed labour force from the 2011 National Household Survey, there were 7,805 actors and comedians in Canada in 2011, as well as 21,655 producers, directors, choreographers, and related occupations. These employed labour force estimates are smaller than estimates in a recent Hill Strategies Research report, which used the experienced labour force, including employed and unemployed individuals in May 2011. The median employment income of actors and comedians was just $9,700 in 2010, compared with median employment income of $40,700 for producers, directors, choreographers, and related occupations. (These statistics are incorrectly reported as “average employment income” in the Statistics Canada fact sheet.)
Regarding students, the fact sheet indicates that there were 7,101 people enrolled in post-secondary drama, theatre arts, and stagecraft programs in 2012/13. Among Canadians 25 to 64 years of age with a university degree, 2.9% were in visual and performing arts. In 2014/15, the average university tuition fee was $5,287 for full-time undergraduate students in visual and performing arts or communications technologies programs.

Importance of Live Theatre

Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, June 2014
Author: Nanos Research
Based on a random telephone survey of 1,000 Canadians commissioned by the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) from Nanos Research in March 2014, this brief report and a summary fact sheet (Canadian Theatre: Creating Vibrant Communities) indicate that many Canadians believe in the importance of live theatre in Canadian communities. Given the sample size, the margin of error of the overall estimates is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The survey results show that:

  • 84% of Canadians believe that live theatre plays an important or somewhat important role in “making communities across Canada vibrant places to live” (49% important; 35% somewhat important). Support for this statement was particularly high in British Columbia (91%) and Ontario (88%) as well as among women (89%) and Canadians between 18 and 29 years of age (91%).
  • 80% of Canadians believe that live theatre plays an important or somewhat important role in “helping to attract visitors to communities” (42% important; 37% somewhat important). Recognition of the importance of theatre in attracting visitors was particularly strong in the Atlantic provinces (87%) and Ontario (83%) as well as among women (83%).
  • 66% of Canadians believe that live theatre plays an important or somewhat important role in “helping to attract businesses to communities” (32% important; 34% somewhat important). Recognition of the role of theatre in attracting businesses was highest in Ontario (73%) and the Atlantic provinces (71%) as well as among women (72%), Canadians 60 and older (73%), and those between 40 and 49 years of age (72%). 

Regarding support for federal funding of live theatre, 77% of Canadians support or somewhat support “the federal government investing new funds for live theatre programming in communities across Canada for Canada’s 150th anniversary” (46% support; 31% somewhat support). Support for this type of government funding was strongest in the Atlantic provinces (85%), British Columbia (82%), and Ontario (80%) but was quite consistent by sex and age.

The Changing Theatre Landscape

New Models in Use by Theatre Artists, Groups and Organizations
Canadian Public Arts Funders, June 2014
Authors: Jane Marsland with George Krump
In a situation where “the growth in the number of artists attempting to start new [theatre] companies [exceeds] the growth in the funding available”, this report, based on a review of relevant and recent Canadian reports, attempts to identify “key practices, approaches or models that theatre artists, groups and organizations are implementing or adapting to ensure their art-making is viable and thriving”.
The report outlines key challenges in the theatre sector: “artistic innovation, new technology, changing demographics, different patterns of audience engagement, and limited resources”.
Regarding the “organizational structures, working practices, and behaviours” that are changing in order to better support theatre-making, the report highlights:

  • A number of discussions and meetings between theatre practitioners regarding new ways of meeting the sector’s challenges.
  •  “A lot of networking and collaboration among similar-sized theatre organizations”.
  • Administrative structures (“integrated project cores”) focussing on project development rather than traditional theatre seasons.
  • A greater focus on resource sharing between theatre companies, including co-productions and more supportive relationships.
  • Greater use of alternative or temporary venues and spaces.
  • An American service organization that develops “powerful technological tools to address the challenges facing artists and arts organizations”. These tools include a “cloud based database for managing ticket selling, donations and contacts for relationship building” as well as “an online database to connect artists and venues/spaces”. The online venues database is being adapted for use in some Canadian cities, including Toronto and Hamilton

The authors caution that much of the Canadian literature is based on urban centres and anecdotal. In fact, they indicate that “a lack of reflective information on the theatre sector makes it very difficult for theatre artists and organizations to successfully navigate the rapidly [changing] theatre landscape…. More research specific to theatre [is] urgently needed.”
For arts funders, the authors indicate that that “the evolving theatre producing models and new ways of developing plays will require changes in the grant application process”, including changes to grant application forms, changes to funding models for new play development, blurred divisions between project and operating funding, longer-term project funding, and more funding for cross-disciplinary work.

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