Sydney Theater Company hits cash crisis

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton’s first year managing the Sydney Theater Company has been marred by a significant erosion of the company’s financial position.

The result does not reflect the co-artistic directors’ programming, which began in earnest only at the start of calendar year 2009, but will impact their plans to expand the activities of Australia’s preeminent not-for-profit.

The STC annual report tabled this week shows ticket sales for the mainstage season, programmed by departing a.d. Robyn Nevin, down by 9.9%, representing a dip of A$1.12 million ($880,000) in B.O. receipts from 2007’s record levels.

With the company’s investments also eroded by the stock market decline, STC only narrowly avoided posting a deficit by cutting costs and relying more heavily on philanthropy, led by patron Giorgio Armani. Turnover of $19.6 million saw an operating profit of $29,000 and non-operating loss of $235,000.

Tom Stoppard’s “Rock and Roll” sold the highest number of tickets in the 800-plus seat Sydney Theater: 23,847 from 41 perfs. Weakest show in that main venue was helmer Max Stafford-Clark’s fanciful take on “The Beggar’s Opera” called “The Convict’s Opera,” a co-prod with Blighty’s Out-Of-Joint that sold 10,680 tix across 29 perfs.

In the 500-seat Sydney Opera House Drama Theater, John Doyle’s streetscape drama “The Pig Iron People” was the year’s most popular entry, notching 23,897 paid tix from an extended season of 54 perfs. At the opposite end was Daniel Keene’s “The Serpent’s Teeth,” seen by just 8,540 theatergoers in 32 perfs.

Blanchett’s production of David Harrower’s “Blackbird” clocked the highest traffic in the 300-seat Wharf 1 Theater, selling 17,365 tickets, while Barrie Kosky’s harrowing “Women of Troy” starring Nevin was the slowest seller, with 10,898.

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