Attendance slips, but Guthrie Theater ends year in the black

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 13, 2011 - 9:11 AM

The end of a financially stressful year showed a tiny surplus at the theater even though attendance was down a bit from last year.

In a year when arts organizations such as the Minnesota Orchestra and Penumbra Theatre are reporting deficits, the Guthrie Theater has ended in the black.

At its annual meeting on Monday, the state's largest theater company said that it had a surplus of $10,000 on a budget of $26.2 million.

"Given what's going on in the world and in many parts of our business, we are very pleased with the results," said Guthrie director Joe Dowling, who credited the good news to the theater's donors, the Legacy Amendment and a fiscally tight management team. "Some shows did better than others, some didn't quite connect, but we're serving our mission well."

Income from performances accounted for 50 percent of the theater's budget. The endowment grew to $42 million from $38 million and the draw on that money contributed 8 percent to the overall budget. Contributions made up 32 percent, while the theater brought in the remaining 10 percent from rentals and other sources.

While "The Master Butcher's Singing Club" did not meet goals, other shows exceeded them, including Jonathan Munby's "A Winter's Tale" and Dowling's production of "H.M.S. Pinafore."

The Guthrie, which has 20,500 subscribers, reported total attendance of 421,982, which includes plays, concerts and education events. Attendance was down a bit from last year, when the Guthrie reported 435,877 attendees.

Across all plays and theaters, attendance came in at 75 percent of capacity. Artistic highlights included "The Great Game: Afghanistan."

"One of the things that we're doing more of this season is our own work in the studio," said Dowling, referring to the black-box theater on the ninth floor that hosts smaller productions by such playwrights as Adam Rapp and Neil LaBute. "That's something we want to expand."

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