The Canadian Opera Company’s Annual report is out. You can find it here. It not unreasonably lauds the COC’s considerable artistic achievements over the last year as well as its extensive and commendable outreach activities. It also contains, albeit in no great detail, the financials. Now, as a former management consultant, I know that’s the one bit of an Annual Report that’s hard to spin though most CFOs will try. Being the analyst that I am I ran a few numbers and the results were a bit disturbing. It was obvious that the financial position had deteriorated though the extent only revealed itself when I looked back to 2009/10 as a comparator. Here are a few statistics comparing 2011/12 with 2009/10.
- Capacity (i.e. seats to be sold): up 7% (this is approximate and calculated from ticket sales and reported capacity figures)
- Seats sold: down 8%
- Average price per seat sold: down 10% (From $97.97 to $87.86; which seems quite low really)
- Leading to a drop in ticket revenue of 18%
Now box office isn’t everything as it only amounts to 30% or so of income and other sources of income have held up better but it is important. It also shows the difficulties of running with a five year planning horizon. There isn’t much ability to reduce capacity in the face of falling demand so the only short term expedient is heavy discounting. And that’s a vicious circle because if the market learns to expect discounts it will get them! This season has started out with strong attendances but also with fairly heavy discounting from the off. Maybe this will drive up the utilisation rate but will it turn into significantly improved revenue?
All of this leaves the big question. Why is the COC audience not reacting more positively to the unquestionably improved product on offer? Can it all be blamed on economic conditions or is Toronto just not mature enough to engage with excellence?