Despite positive critical and audience acclaim for the productions and a myriad of promotional efforts, attendance fell by five per cent for the Stratford Festival in 2012, resulting in a deficit of $3.4 million.
In 2011, the Festival had a surplus of $52,995.
The Festival looked back on the year that was at its annual general meeting Saturday.
“The work on our stages last year was outstanding,” said Festival artistic director Antoni. Cimolino. “Our only disappointment is that more people weren’t able to enjoy a season that received such widespread critical acclaim.
In a playbill featuring Shakespearean comedy, history and romance, along with ancient Greek tragedy, a Broadway musical, Gilbert and Sullivan and an American classic, outgoing artistic director Des McAnuff programmed seven Canadian works for the Festival in 2012, including a new musical and two other new works emanating from the New Play Department. As a special 60th season event, Christopher Plummer also presented his one-man show, A Word or Two.
According to Cimolino, the Festival was presented with a number of challenges in 2012 – people moving away from advance purchases to last-minute decisions, the continued effects of the economic slowdown, the high Canadian dollar and related issues affecting its American audience.
“These concerns were not ours alone, but are affecting the arts industry more generally,” he added. “Our mission is to meet these challenges creatively, and to do so we will be introducing a number of initiatives in 2013 and beyond.”
Earned revenue from ticket sales and other related activities generated $33.3 million in 2012. Donor contributions to annual operations were the highest in the Festival’s history, with contributed revenue totalling $13.3 million. The Endowment Foundation transferred $2.3 million to the annual budget. Government contributions totalled $5.4 million.
Upon realizing that the Festival was potentially heading toward a deficit situation, its leadership took swift action, introducing new marketing initiatives and cutting costs in-year without compromising the work on stage. In addition, the leadership addressed the 2013 budget, which was in the planning stages, to make every effort to avoid a second deficit.
Savings totalling $1.8 million were identified and have been carried through to 2013.
Cimolino’s plans for the future of the Festival under his tenure include selecting a playbill around a cluster of themes that can be further explored through the new Forum.
“The playbill for 2013, like those I have planned for subsequent seasons, will be more than the sum of its parts: individual titles will reflect, counterpoint and comment on each other in a variety of ways. Theatregoers can come here for a few days and become immersed in exploring various facets of a theme, through the works on stage and the offerings of the Forum.”
Cimolino’s vision for the future also includes the creation of the Laboratory, a place to experiment with new approaches to familiar work, explore classics from other cultures and create bold, large-scale new work.