Coronavirus in Florida: Cultural sector braces for economic blow.
Cultural groups haven’t calculated the damage yet, but the Kravis Center estimates lost revenue from canceled shows at $2 million to $3 million.
Doors are closed. The economy is reeling. Uncertainty abounds.
But one thing is clear as the country waits out the coronavirus pandemic. The cost of the virus for the county’s arts community will be significant.
How bad is it?
“It’s devastatingly bad,” said Robert Lynch, president and chief executive officer of the
Americans for the Arts.
That’s what the advocacy organization has been hearing from artists and arts organizations across the country. Results from a survey will be released early next week.
With widespread closings, income from sources such as ticket sales, in-house shops and cafes has slowed to a trickle. Donations are at risk because of the dwindling stock market.
Most arts groups operate with a very thin margin between expenses and income, Lynch said.
“Time is the enemy here,” he said. “The longer this goes on the more difficult it will be for arts organizations to hang in there.”
But “we’re very concerned about the health and viability of our cultural institutions and professional artists,” he said.
estimates lost revenue from canceled shows at $2 million to $3 million. “We’re running those numbers now,” CEO Judy Mitchell said.
Because of contracts that allow parties to bow out without penalties for cancellations caused by forces beyond their control, the center won’t have to pay artists’ fees.
As for how long the center, which announced it would be closed through March 30, might be shuttered, “we’ve left the door open,” Mitchell said.
On Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks.
Even when the crisis abates, cultural groups will need support from donors to bounce back. “It might take some time to come out of this,” Mitchell said.
The Society of the Four Arts doesn’t expect to incur significant losses from closing early — as long as the outbreak subsides before next season.
“We’re lucky because we had more or less fulfilled our season,” President Philip Rylands said.
He expects the savings from shortening the season versus the lost income to be a wash.
As for other income sources, “our membership doesn’t depend on events,” he said. “There is an aura to membership. I don’t expect a downside to memberships or donations.”
The picture is different for artists, musicians, actors and other creative professionals, who are facing unplanned income losses while heading into the slow summer season.
Designers and directors hired for canceled or postponed shows “were counting on that income,” said William Hayes,
Palm Beach Dramaworks
’ producing artistic director.
Dramaworks is “trying to figure out how to compensate them somehow,” he said.
That might mean paying them a portion of what they would have earned had the show gone on as planned. The 14-member cast of “The Light in the Piazza” was released with two weeks severance pay.
The show was scheduled to open April 3 but if restrictions on group gatherings continue “it could be June, July or even October,” Dramaworks Managing Director Sue Ellen Beryl said.
The theater is committed to producing the musical because it’s a strong title and the company has invested a lot of money in it. “The sets are built and the costumes are made,” Beryl said.
Money spent on “Lobby Hero,” the final show of the season, might be wasted. If “The Light on the Piazza” is pushed too late into the year, there won’t be time to stage “Lobby Hero” before next season begins, she said.
The summer musical, “The Last Five Years,” has been scrapped. Losing that show is “a major hit to the bottom line,” Beryl said.
The company hopes ticket buyers who can’t attend shows at rescheduled dates will donate the price to the theater or take a credit for future performances rather than request refunds. The theater also is relying on 2020-21 subscription sales continuing to be brisk.
Donors the company has relied on in the past might not be able to give as generously, given the plunge in the stock market, Hayes said.
The theater, which is approaching its 20th season, isn’t in jeopardy, but “it’s important now for the public to invest in organizations like us that have a history of being fiscally responsible and have a long track record,” he said.
Before the virus outbreak the
’s attendance averaged 5,000 visitors a week, Director and CEO Elliot Bostwick Davis said.
Now it’s lost that revenue as well as income from the restaurant, shop, nonmember parking and coffee bar.
How serious will the blow be? “We don’t have accurate figures yet,” Davis said.
The museum isn’t planning layoffs, but “we will re-evaluate as we see how long this extends,” she said.
The Norton is watching the bottom line closely and intends to end the year with a balanced budget, she said.
At the Kravis Center, the plan is “to do the same as we do for other crises, hunker down and look at ways we can be efficient,” Mitchell said.
The closing came so close to the end of the season that “between prudent management and our reserves we can weather this through the season and the summer,” she said.
Palm Beach Opera
is dealing with the cancellation of “Eugene Onegin,” its final opera of the season.
Ticket buyers have until April 1 to convert the sale into a tax-deductible donation or use it as a credit for a future performance.
Factoring in the cost savings from expenses the opera was spared by canceling the production, “we should be OK, but that’s only if all the medium to major gifts come in,” General Director David Walker said.
Fund-raising might have to wait.
“There are just too many messages out there right now,” the Cultural Council’s Lawrence said. “It’s tough to break through.”
At the moment, “I don’t think people are thinking about that,” he said. “They’re just thinking about day to day and how to keep their families safe.”