NATIONAL BALLET ENDS SEASON IN THE RED.
According to executive director Valerie Wilder, the company's 1998 New York tour lost close to $450,000. First, only partial sponsorship had been found to underwrite the cost, a negative factor compounded by a plummeting Canadian dollar and the almost 50 percent exchange rate. Also, the New York rave reviews did not translate into ticket sales. "We knew we'd lose money, but we needed that success in New York to stay on the radar screen," states Wilder. "The critical praise helped raise capital for the company's endowment fund at home and awaken interest in touring abroad."
The rest of this year's deficit was due to decreased public-and private-sector funding for annual operations. Toronto's arts groups are fighting over the same slices of corporate pie to offset cutbacks from Ontario's ultra-conservative provincial government. For example, the Ontario Arts Council has slashed NBC's yearly operations grant by $1.5 million, which means that the company has lost millions of budget dollars since conservatives were elected five years ago. The NBC used to have sixty-five dancers; it now has forty-seven. Government grants and fund-raising accounted for only 27 percent and 28 percent of revenues, respectively, while box office generated 42 percent.
Wilder reports that money from the National Ballet Foundation could have been used to retire the $4-million accumulated debt, but the decision was to leave that capital intact since it represents the company's future. Rather, NBC has been restructuring for the last three years to sharpen its spending and marketing skills. For example, the company installed its own box office two years ago to capture data on ticket buyers and customer service. In addition, every supplier contract is being examined to save costs.
"We could have made the bottom line look better, but we decided to take a hit this year," says Wilder. "Yes, we're in a tough situation, but we know our main thrust must be raising money to cover annual operations. Unfortunately, Torontonians have been slow to realize that they must replace lost government funding if they want first-rate cultural organizations. many still think in terms of the subsidized arts of the past.
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|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1999|
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