Performing Arts Center Ends First Year With $1.1-Million Surplus

Times Staff Writer

Declaring 1987 a boffo year, the Orange County Performing Arts Center released preliminary figures showing that it ended its first 12 months of operation with a surplus of $1.1 million, principally because of higher box office revenues and greater charitable donations than anticipated.

"I think we have conclusively proven that we have a stronger market than our market research study indicated from the start," Chairman Henry T. Segerstrom said at a news conference Thursday following a closed meeting of the board of directors.

Moreover, in a key decision indicative of the Center's ambition for national recognition, the board voted to put part of that surplus into a $500,000 cash reserve, Segerstrom said. The money will be available not only to cover possible losses from programming deficits but also for potential investment in theatrical ventures. It will, in effect, put the Center in the producing business.

"There is a lack of product in this country in the live performing arts," said Thomas R. Kendrick, president and chief operating officer. "What we hope is that an opportunity will come along, that some production . . . might be made possible through our assistance."

Kendrick said he already has had informal discussions about cooperative ventures with several major arts centers in Denver, Washington and Los Angeles, as well as talks with American Ballet Theatre. "We can go in several directions," he said.

Segerstrom said, "This immediately raises us nationally to a stature in performing arts center circles that is at the top."

Both officials painted an especially rosy picture of the Center's finances and patronage. Theater receipts of $8.6 million, the principal source of operating income, were $1.4 million more than the budgeted projection. House attendance at the 3,000-seat Segerstrom Hall averaged roughly 86% for all performances during the last quarter of the year, Kendrick said.

Actual expenditures of $12.1 million--higher than the projected $11.6 million--still left what Kendrick termed "an income gap" of about $3.2 million before charitable donations. But fund-raising efforts and other sources of support delivered a total of $4.3 million, thus yielding the $1.1 million "positive balance," he said.

Segerstrom said the board was informed that pledge collections enabled it to reduce a $13-million construction loan to $7.5 million. And he spoke glowingly of the Guilds, the grass-roots fund-raisers for the Center.

Segerstrom said the board had voted to celebrate the Guilds' 10th anniversary this year with "a very special performance . . . and, hopefully, an important performer (at Segerstrom Hall)." No date or artist was specified.

Citing community support as a significant factor in house attendance, Kendrick said that while he is delighted by the 86% average attendance last year, he expects that figure to drop. He said "a good pattern for arts centers would be 65 to 70%."

He said he was especially delighted that 18,000 single tickets were sold for American Ballet Theatre's 2-week stand in December, contrasted with 21,000 subscription tickets. Attendance ran at 85%, he said, much higher than the 65% projection.

Other programs that did far better than expected were the jazz series, which averaged 83% of capacity; the big bands series, which sold out; and the Chinese Children's Palace of Hangzhou, which averaged 90%.

The Moscow Virtuosi, a chamber orchestra, was well-received critically but a major disappointment at the box office. Attendance ran at only 40%.

"We're running full out for weeks at a time," Kendrick said. Last year, Segerstrom Hall was in use for 215 dates. Kendrick said the Center hopes to increase that number by about 10% over two years.

The board also nominated nine officers for reelection to a 3-year term: Gary H. Hunt, A. Vincent Jorgensen, Thomas P. Kemp, Harold E. Price, Elaine M. Redfield, Donald W. Shaw, Georgia Spooner, John R. Miltner and Ignacio E. Lozano Jr.

There were four new nominations: Hinda Beral, Steve Mansfield, Richard J. Muth and Ceil Woodman.

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