Canada’s Shaw Festival is once again swimming in red ink.
After two years of cash surpluses, the legit org announced Friday it had posted an operating deficit of C$927,000 ($923,000) on its 2007 season.
The news reps an alarming throwback to the first two years of current artistic director Jackie Maxwell’s five-year reign, when the combined operating deficit reached $5.54 million.
Due to the use of a so-called “rainy day” fund and some creative bookkeeping which draws on the fest’s capital assets to drive down the deficit, the Shaw Board is now claiming the total deficit is only $1.89 million on a budget of just under $25 million.
Shaw treasurer Keith Mosley claimed that “a volatile environment for theater and tourism” was the reason for the 5% decline in box office revenues that led to this season’s shortfall.
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Still it seems curious that the nearby Stratford Festival, which would appear to be dealing with an identical scenario, marked a 6% increase in ticket sales and finished its season with a $220,000 surplus — marking the org’s 14th profitable year in a row.
Until Maxwell took over command of Shaw in 2003, the legit fest had gone through its previous ten seasons under former artistic director Christopher Newton without a deficit.