Segerstrom Center reports rise in revenue, attendance

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts has reported a modest rise in attendance and revenue for the 2010-11 season that recently ended. The center in Costa Mesa said the increases were due largely to blockbuster-type shows such as the visiting high-tech "Peter Pan" and touring Broadway musicals.

But the financial outlook for Orange County's largest arts organization still looks uncertain, and its long-term goal of raising $240 million to pay the construction debt on the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, which opened more than four years ago, remains unrealized.

The center reported paid admissions of 470,853 for the 2010-11 season, with 360 public performances at its four main venues. That represents an increase over last season's attendance of 414,418 with 273 performances. The figures don't include attendance for the center's resident companies — the Pacific Symphony, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and the Pacific Chorale — which report separately.

"Peter Pan" was the center's top-attended show for the season, with admissions of 113,303 over 14 weeks. The production, which originated in Britain, featured a large circular tent on the grounds of the center, with CGI special effects. The other top-attended shows were touring productions of the musicals "Wicked," with attendance of 93,664 over four weeks, and "South Pacific," with attendance of 28,754 over two weeks.

"The size of the Broadway season and special projects like 'Peter Pan' helped us to have a good year at the box office," said Terry Dwyer, president of the center, in an interview.

Preliminary income for the season was $54.5 million, consisting of revenue of $43 million, donations of $9.3 million and endowment support of $2.2 million. Expenses for the period were $54.3 million. The center said its endowment stands at $52 million.

Earlier this year, Standard & Poor's downgraded the investment outlook on the center's $232.5 million in construction bonds from "stable" to "negative," citing slow progress in its fundraising campaign.

The Segerstrom Center said that virtually no money was raised in the last two years but added that the campaign has started to regain momentum. Dwyer said he expects "a number of seven-figure gifts this fall."

The organization, previously known as the Orange County Performing Arts Center, will celebrate its 25th anniversary season later this year.

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