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O.C. Arts Center Needs Extra $1 Million : Finance: To bridge the widening gap between operating expenses and revenues, private donations of $5.7 million must be obtained in 1990. Last year, the facility raised $4.7 million in contributions.


COSTA MESA — Orange County Performing Arts Center President Thomas R. Kendrick has told board members that the Center must raise $1 million more in operating funds from donors this year--an increase of 22% over last year.

The Center will, in fact, be more dependent on private donations "than in any previous year" since it opened in 1986, Kendrick told the board.

This increased reliance seems to come along at a less-than-ideal time: Last year, the Center fell short of its fund-raising goal by more than $770,000. And the Center is already in the throes of a new, major fund drive, an effort to nearly quadruple its Endowment Fund to $12 million by the end of 1993.

At last week's annual Center board meeting, Kendrick said that last year's attendance figures broke Center records but that this success resulted primarily from a record number of often-sold-out productions of nationally touring Broadway musicals.

These shows, Kendrick said, have "real prospects of paying their own way." Beyond that, they can help the Center subsidize ballet, opera and symphony programs that don't make money.

But product for the Center's next Broadway Series, a five-play subscription offering to begin this fall, is worse than scarce, Kendrick said. Indeed, no musicals have been announced for the series, and Kendrick said in an interview Friday, "I see no prospects of adding additional musicals this summer."

"There are virtually no quality Broadway musicals on the road that we have not already presented," he told the board members. "And there are almost none on the near horizon."

(The Center will co-produce a revival of the 1962 musical "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" in August. But officials say that is expected to cost--not make--money and is being offered only because they feel they must provide something for their musical-hungry audiences.)

Meanwhile, Kendrick said, the 1990 goal for contributed support to meet the gap between operating expenses and revenues is $5.7 million--"$1 million higher than actual contributions a year ago," he said, "as inflation pushes up labor and utility costs, service contracts and insurance rates, and potential income from Broadway musicals turns down."

Last year, Center fund raising fell short of a $5.4-million goal by $771,000. And in January, the campaign was launched to nearly quadruple the cash assets of the Center's Endowment Fund, which now totals $3.2 million, less than 20% of the amount it takes to run the Center for just one year.

With these added pressures, how does Kendrick expect the Center will raise an extra $1 million this year? Is he worried about succeeding?

"We're worried every year," he said. "We and every other arts organization are deeply concerned about closing the income gap" between box office receipts and operating costs.

Center officials have begun, he said, "to communicate to the community the need and the reasons for the increase in support."

Also, he said, "we have just engaged a vice president for development (George E. Engdahl) and are gearing up in our development staff to reach new sources of support, including corporations, foundations and individuals, both within the country, nationwide and internationally."

Kendrick said he is not concerned, though, about the dearth of available Broadway musicals continuing into the more distant future. On the contrary, he said, an unusually large number of musicals recently opened on Broadway and, after about a year, should begin to tour. "It is always possible by the end of the year that musicals could become available," he said.

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