16/08/2019 - 12:00

Arts, cultural bodies stick to script on performance matrix

16/08/2019 - 12:00

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WA’s major performance-based arts groups have persevered through a broadly stagnant economic environment this past year.

The Splash Zone - Mermaids. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

WA’s major performance-based arts groups have persevered through a broadly stagnant economic environment this past year.

Sluggish economic growth in Western Australia may have hurt businesses across the board in recent years, but many of the state’s performance-based arts and cultural organisations managed to hold their ground in terms of operating revenue.

According to the updated BNiQ database, WA’s six major performance-based arts and cultural organisations brought in $33.8 million in cumulative operating revenue in 2018, a modest decrease on $34.9 million in cumulative operating revenue in 2017.

While all six organisations received government funding and private sector grants, operating revenue  measures all income generated by ticket sales as well as other performance-based concessions. 

Within the six organisations, Artrage’s operating revenue grew 5 per cent to $17 million in 2018, making it the largest arts company in WA by operating revenue.

Established in 1983, Artrage produces Fringe World Festival, Rooftop Movies and Girls School Cinema.

A spokesperson for Artrage told Business News the organisation’s success could be attributed to the growth of Fringe World and its unique business model.

“Fringe World manages around 50 per cent of the program directly, including management of the main festival hubs such as The Woodside Pleasure Garden,” the spokesperson said.

“This means the festival can fuel its own growth through sales, rather than relying on government and other partners for the lion’s share of support.

“The open-access nature … is one that is geared for growth.

“It’s up to the artists and the venues to decide to participate, and the shows can benefit from the large marketplace platform of the festival.”

Other companies to increase operating revenue included West Australian Ballet, which went from $3.1 million in 2017 to $3.8 million in 2018.

WA Ballet has been in operation since 1952, and includes Woodside Petroleum, Wesfarmers Arts and Lotterywest among its corporate sponsors.

Writing in the ballet’s 2018 annual report, executive director Jessica Machin attributed the organisation’s success to multiple factors, including a critically acclaimed program that featured collaborations with the NT Dance Company.

“As a company, our focus is on sustainable growth and we are well positioned to take WAB to new heights,” she said in the report.

WA Symphony Orchestra also increased its operating revenue, from $5.9 million in 2017 to $6.4 million in 2018.

Founded in 1928, WASO is the state’s only professional orchestra, regularly performing with both WA Opera and WA Ballet.

WASO chief executive Mark Coughlan wrote in the organisation’s annual report that world premieres of works by Lachlan Skipworth and Carl Vine, as well as collaborations with the likes of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, had contributed to the organisation’s growth.

“[The year] 2018 will be remembered not only for this milestone year in the company’s history but for the wholehearted delivery of bold artistic ambition,” Mr Coughlan said.

“I’m excited by the incredible possibilities that lie ahead.”

Perth Festival’s operating revenue decreased from $6.8 million in 2017 to $4.3 million in 2018. That came despite growth in attendance.

A spokesperson for Perth Festival told Business News attendance had grown in 2018 because of free events, including ‘Siren Song’, which attracted 200,000 visits across 10 days.

Black Swan State Theatre Company also recorded a decline in operating revenue, falling from $1.2 million in 2017 to $1.1 million in 2018.

Business News has previously reported on Black Swan Theatre’s financial performance, with executive director Danielle Norrish having said box office sales alone was a simplistic measure of the company’s performance.

Ms Norrish had also said that growing competition for discretionary spending had affected the performance of theatre companies in the state.

Similarly, WA Opera reported an 18.8 per cent drop in operating revenue between 2017 and 2018, falling from $1.6 million to $1.3 million.

Executive director Carolyn Chard told Business News operating revenue had increased in 2017 due to WA Opera’s 50th anniversary.

Taking that into consideration, operating revenue increased by 15.4 per cent between 2016 and 2018.

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