Our theatre ecology today faces a series of compounding crises. The ongoing impacts of COVID-19 have intensified pre-existing challenges, including the decline of the subscription model and persistently negative working capital. While historic levels of federal relief funds provided the liquidity needed to survive the brunt of the pandemic, a lack of cash flow is now causing a surge of cancellations and closures. Inflation and rising labor costs have made everything more expensive, and for many theatres, audiences are far from returning to pre-pandemic levels. Climate change has exacerbated flooding, wildfires, and other catastrophic events, putting further strain on impacted theatres. In short, while federal relief funds provided a seeming respite from the storm, we now face a rogue wave threatening to drag the foundations of our field under.
While news of beloved theatres pausing programming or closing their doors is shocking, it is not a surprise. During 2021-22, we frequently heard from peers in our Theatre Leader Connectedness (TLC) meetings about a financial cliff in the future. Our 2022 Budgeting for Uncertainty: Snapshot Survey revealed that the number of theatres budgeting a deficit rose from 10% in FY21 to 62% in FY23. Yet as is always the case with our theatre ecology, there is no single story that can capture the diversity of the whole. It is a time of both crisis and chrysalis, for there are theatres and theatre workers who are thriving, and we can build from those bright spots as we recover. And we must do more than just rebuild; we must also transform our models into a just and thriving theatre ecology that works for all of us.
That’s why, on September 11 of 2023, TCG hosted the 2023 Crisis & Chrysalis Town Hall: an emergent conversation to acknowledge the crises, share what’s working, and chart a path forward. To inform that conversation, we launched the 2023 Compounding Crises: Snapshot Survey to better understand the extent of the crises facing our theatres, which of the challenges are most acute, and how TCG can prioritize our efforts most effectively. 171 theatres from across the country completed the survey.
READ THE FULL SURVEY RESULTS HERE