Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Weak $ = More Tourism + Higher Costs

With NY awards season finally over (and many shows getting a post-Tony bump in sales), Gordon Cox of ‘Variety’ writes about the ‘double-edged sword’ facing American producers. Though the weak dollar has meant a rise in international tourism, it also means a steep increase in production costs for anyone mounting plays from abroad. See full article here.

“For the nonprofit presenters whose main goal is to bring international legit fare to a largely local aud, the dollar's slippage proves a major hindrance.

"Brooklyn Academy of Music is a global performing and cinema arts center," says BAM exec producer Joseph V. Melillo. "A weak dollar eats right into our operating budget."

"We pay international artists their fees, we transport them by air, we bring them to New York City and give them a per diem," Melillo chimes in. "If you're doing that in pounds sterling, you feel the impact. For us, it means more fund-raising. It means higher ticket prices."

Newer, smaller orgs can have an even tougher time. "It's not a happy situation for Under the Radar or for smaller presenters," says Mark Russell, the former A.D. of small-scale international presenter P.S. 122 and current topper of the Public Theater's Under the Radar fest of new legit works. "We're having to do fewer pieces and cut our seasons down. It comes around to the fact that often, international troupes are subsidizing a tour of the U.S. themselves."

At St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, a current production of Macbeth from Polish troupe TR Warszawa has seen costs spiral to around $700,000, rising by about $200,000. "What's hurting the most is the devaluation of the dollar," says St. Ann's A.D., Susan Feldman. "You'll make a deal and then the dollar drops. It adds tens of thousands of dollars to the budget." (Macbeth is co-funded by the Polish Cultural Institute.)

Whether to pay relocating artists in their own currency or in dollars therefore becomes an issue. "It's good for our gang when they go overseas, because they get paid in euros," notes Russell. "But when I end up paying them in dollars, they don't like it. It makes it harder to keep them interested."

Still, Gotham orgs have the prestige of the New York arts scene working in their favor. "Breaking into this market is of interest," Russell says. "Artists aren't going to take a reduced fee to go to Piscataway."

No comments: