We started Harlequin Productions in 1991 with $400 and a passion and vision for providing high-quality, challenging theater in Olympia. The company grew rapidly, and at just six years old, we began our successful campaign to purchase the historic State Theater and turn it into a live performance space. Seventeen months later, we opened the doors on our new home in November, 1998.
Over the last 12 years, however, we have found that we are running in place. More accurately, we’ve been running harder and harder to stay in the same place.
Total Income & Expenses
This is a twelve year picture of running in place. Note that the income and expense lines are more or less flat and overlapping. Despite the fact that inflation over that period was 25%.
To make the meaning of this chart more clear, let’s employ a different metaphor. Think of the red line as the ocean and the green line as our nose. When the green line moves above the red line, we can breathe. When the green line drops below the red line, we have to hold our breath. A strong swimmer can do this for hours, but it is not, as they say, “sustainable.”
(And by the way, the big spike in the expenses line in 2007 is when we went from six to seven shows per season. That’s more running harder.)
Earned & Contributed Income
Like all non-profit theater companies, we have two types of income: Earned Income and Contributed Income.
Earned Income includes ticket sales, program advertising, concessions sales and theater rentals
Contributed Income includes grants, our annual campaign (personal donations), sponsorships, and fundraising events like Eclectic! and Harlequin Uncorked.
EARNED INCOME (EI)
The purple line represents our total attendance. The blue line is single ticket attendance and the green represents subscriber attendance.
Anyone who has been attending our shows for many years has noticed that attendance has dwindled dramatically. Note that single ticket attendance closely follows the volatile line of the overall ticket attendance. Subcribers have been in a steady decline for many years. In 2004 we had over 1,500 subscribers. We currently have under 1000.
One of the most perplexing details in this chart occurs in 2015. After a steep decline beginning in 2010, single ticket sales suddenly shot up in October of 2014. They continued on a healthy course for just over a year, then dropped precipitously again in January of 2016. We’ve heard many theories about why that might have happened but none that seem convincing.
EI: TICKET SALES in $
We find a nearly identical picture when we consider the same information represented in dollars instead of attendance. We’ve added 4-year average total income numbers to provide additional perspective to the information.
EI: TICKET SALES & OTHER
This graph is simply to demonstrate how thoroughly our ticket sales dominate our total earned income.
In effect, we can equate our earned income with ticket sales.
CONTRIBUTED INCOME (CI)
In our second chart, we compared our Contributed Income to our Earned Income. The following two graphs present a picture of how our various contributed income sources compare with one another.
CI: FUNDRAISING & SPONSORSHIPS
Here the blue line represents our Total Contributions, which includes our annual campaign (individual donations) and grants, but grants represent a very small part of this total.
The purple line represents money raised through Fundraising Events like Eclectica! and Harlequin Uncorked.
The green line represents the money raised through Sponsorships.
All three of these are significant to our bottom line, but individual donations are definitely our most significant source of Contributed Income.
So now let’s return to the previous comparison of:
EARNED & CONTRIBUTED INCOME
For easier consumption, we’ve broken the twelve-year graph into three segments.
In twelve years, our Earned Income has dropped from 81% to 77% to 72%.
Looks troubling, right? It troubles us.
Would you like to know what the national average is?
Wait for it…
Comparing Harlequin with National Averages
We belong to a national organization called Theater Communications Group. Their mission is to strengthen, nurture and promote the professional not-for-profit American theatre. Among many other services, they provide a vast amount of information and statistics about theaters across the country, according to budget size. Harlequin Productions is included in the $500,000-$1M annual budget category.
Let’s take a look at how Harlequin stacks up against the national average in our Budget Category.
As we hope you can see, we’re pretty much right in line with our peers in most categories. But the ones in which we differ tell a surprising story. With the similar size staff, budget, and ticket prices, we produce, provide and sell much, much more.
Now take a look at the comparisons of Contributed and Earned Income and compare the Management/Operations figures.
Who works harder? Who does more with less? How is this possible?
Finally, let’s return to our first graph.
TOTAL INCOME & EXPENSES
As you can see, our expenses (the red line) have been pretty much flat since 2005. (In fact, it looks similar going all the way back to 1998, when we first first opened our home in the State Theater back when a sheet of plywood cost $8 and when gas was still $1/gallon.) Inflation would suggest that our expenses should have risen by about 25% since 2005, but they haven’t. We think it’s fair to surmise, then, that the red line is not going to go down.
If we are going to make Harlequin Productions sustainable, we have to move the Green Line above the Red Line.
There are many ways to make this happen. Our current campaign is to promote our sustaining membership program, the Harlequin RLT Club. It is a re-branded version of the Dr. Feelgood Club. The RLT Club will still make you feel just as good. In fact, it will make you feel even better now that you know how your generous contribution directly affects the sustainability of Harlequin Productions.
Our goal is to recruit 200 new Harlequin RLT Club members at an average monthly donation level of $25/month. If you believe in the importance of a sustainable Harlequin, please consider becoming a sustaining member.
Thank you for making 26 years of Real. Live. Theater. possible.