Egyptian Theatre: We will survive
April 20, 2010
Chris Aall, chairman of the Egyptian Theatre board of trustees, opened a press conference on Saturday night with an unexpected statement: "These are exciting times for us," he said. Not trying times or troublesome times – exciting times.
That was the message delivered to board members, sponsors, donors and members of the media as they reviewed the theatre’s current financial situation and plans for the future.
According to Aall, the Egyptian is in a much better place compared to nine months ago, when it was in jeopardy of going dark. He went on to outline what happened over the past year and how the theatre has managed to beat the odds.
To recap, the theatre found itself in dire financial straits last April. The staff was reduced, the theatre’s Equity status was terminated, and – much to the dismay of season ticket-holders – the remainder of the 2009 season was canceled.
In May, Randy Barton signed on as theatre manager and pledged to keep the lights on while chipping away at the Egyptian’s considerable debt.
Friction among board members about how to go forward resulted in several members leaving their positions. Aall took over as chairman in August and the group agreed that they would only stage events that were financed up front or considered no-risk in terms of funding.
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"Finance and drama is an explosive situation," Aall said at Saturday’s meeting. Although the board’s decisions last summer met with significant criticism from community members, the numbers show that their cautious approach has paid off.
Aall explained that the theatre has reduced its payable debt to creditors from $120,000 in November 2009 to $45,000 as of last week. The bank debt has been reduced to $30,000 from $36,000 since last April.
Between September 2008 and April 2009, the theatre lost $44,000 due to expenses exceeding income. In the same time period from 2009 to 2010, the net profit totaled $68,000, which amounts to a net turnaround of $112,000.
Aall thanked the Egyptian’s many sponsors for their continued support. He also praised Barton as the driving force behind the theatre’s economic triumph. "The results speak for themselves," he said. "We are proud to stand here today thanks to him."
Barton started the Pharaoh Club as a way for community members to support the theatre and receive various perks and benefits. Since its inception last summer, the 69 club members have contributed more than $60,000 toward sustaining the theatre.
In addition, Southwest Airlines signed on as a major sponsor, providing the theatre with a fixed number of tickets to distribute and sell to Pharaoh club members. Aall says the theatre has sold about $20,000 in airline tickets. The sponsorship period was originally slated for three months, but a representative from Southwest attended the meeting and expressed the desire to continue the partnership.
Another partnership that has been beneficial on both sides is an arrangement with Aaron Hofmann, the proprietor of 350 Main and The Spur Bar & Grill. Hofmann offered to support the theatre through sponsoring shows and setting up a ticket exchange program. Patrons who bring a ticket stub from the Egyptian to 350 Main or The Spur receive $1 off their ticket price. For every ticket stub received, Hofmann donates $1 to the theatre.
Barton took time to thank Save Our Stage, a local organization that owns the building and provides the facility at minimal rent costs, as well as the Summit County Recreation, Arts and Parks (RAP) Tax. "No nonprofit group in this country could exist without that support," he said.
Aall stressed that although the theatre is making progress, they are not out of the woods. "Many challenges still face us," he said.
Immediate goals include strengthening the theatre’s staff, taking steps to avoid another financial crisis, and implementing a plan for sustainability and growth. "We must be a home to multiple uses," said Aall. "We want to be a vibrant and entertaining destination on Main Street for the Park City community."
The Egyptian will continue to host various events including monthly comedy shows and Cowboy Nights, Youtheatre productions, concerts, touring theatre productions and other community events.
The Park City Follies starts Thursday night and continues through May 1. Youtheatre will present "Annie" May 7-9, inaugurating a new partnership with the University of Utah’s Youth Theatre program. The Egyptian will also present a non-Equity production of "Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical," from June 25 through July 25 and launch the Park City Snowsport Film Festival in September.
"It’s great to stand on this stage and recognize that we will survive," said Barton.
For more information about upcoming shows and to purchase tickets, call 649-9371 or visit http://www.egyptiantheatrecompany.org.