Thank goodness for Eliza Doolittle. “My Fair Lady” became the Guthrie Theater’s all-time box-office champion last summer, helping the company post a year-end surplus.
The $247,000 surplus reported Monday for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31 marks a rebound from last year’s deficit of almost $438,000 — the only fiscal year that experienced a deficit during Guthrie director Joe Dowling’s 20 years at the helm.
“That was an integral part of my leadership, and I leave the Guthrie in an extremely healthy situation,” said Dowling, who will retire in June.
The Guthrie drew 98,000 patrons during the final 10 weeks of the fiscal year, many to see Dowling’s staging of the popular Lerner and Loewe musical. But the principal reason for the surplus was an effort to limit expenses. The Guthrie was closed last January and the theater presented fewer performances. Those decisions cut expenses by about $1.5 million from fiscal 2012-13. Revenue was off about $720,000 from the previous year.
However, Dowling noted one key improvement: The percentage of seats filled per show was higher than the previous year.
Last winter’s staging of “Born Yesterday” was a “runaway success,” Dowling said. “Tristan and Yseult,” an import from Britain’s Kneehigh company, also was very popular and an artistic success, he added.
While total box office and donations were down from 2012-13, the Guthrie’s endowment had a healthy 15 percent gain and the company was able to draw $2.32 million from investments, about $142,000 better than the previous year.
“It’s a pretty positive story,” chief administrative officer Adam Cox said in an interview. “We were able to pay down $3.35 million on our debt and we had good investment returns.”
Employees had been asked to take furloughs early in the fiscal year, but by year’s end the Guthrie was able to reimburse the lost wages.
Total attendance was down, to 358,639, compared to 375,702 in 2012-13 and almost 426,000 in fiscal 2011-12. While the number of subscribers rose to 18,183 in the past fiscal year, the number of donors dropped 37 percent to 5,181, according to the annual report.
Guthrie annual revenue and expenses peaked at approximately $28.9 million in fiscal 2011-12. Last year, revenue was just under $25.9 million and expenses were about $25.6 million.