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Performing Arts Center Ends '93 Barely in Black : Budget: The Orange County venue missed its fund-raising goal and had to dip into a 'programming subsidy' to avoid red ink.

January 21, 1994|ZAN DUBIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

COSTA MESA — The Orange County Performing Arts Center ended 1993 in the black, but missed its fund-raising goal by nearly 20% and wound up with the lowest operating surplus in its eight-year history.

Center expenses in 1993 totaled $19.9 million while revenue totaled $15.5 million, officials announced Thursday. To offset the difference, which had been anticipated at the nonprofit center, a fund-raising goal of $5 million had been established and budgeted. But only $4.1 million was raised.

Center officials nevertheless were able to avoid red ink by taking $510,000 from a "programming subsidy" established two years ago. In a prepared statement, officials said the center thus ended the year "in a strong financial position."

But executive director Tom Tomlinson later acknowledged that the surplus--reported at $205,284--is the center's smallest ever. Last year's, for instance, was more than half a million dollars.

Tomlinson maintained that "a smaller surplus at the end of this year than the previous year is . . . inconsequential."

"Despite the continued downturn in the economy," he said, "this institution has remained strong, and over eight years, developed a very strong financial figure. . . . Our (total) attendance (for center-presented events) was up by 12%, which is a phenomenal feat."

Average paid attendance, however, was 82.8% of capacity, down from the previous year, according to figures the center provided.

And Tomlinson acknowledged that the total contributions, including those to the center's endowment and building funds, also are down from last year, by 5.7%.

However, he insisted that the center's "strong financial" status, not the decrease in contributions or in operating surplus, is the "real story" of its year-end report.

*

"1993 was a challenging year," center Chairman Thomas H. Nielsen said in a prepared statement, "not only for the center but for most charitable groups in the Southland and many national and international arts organizations

"Due to the global recession, 1993 was the year that the international supply of top-quality attractions available to the center was sharply reduced," Nielsen continued. "For the first time, (the center's) dance season did not feature a single foreign company."

But "with forecasts for improved economic conditions throughout the U.S., Asia and Europe, I am pleased to note that both national and international touring appear to be recovering, although the cost of presenting touring attractions is continuing to rise."

In any case, center officials reported that "careful cost controls" in '93 enabled them to reduce expenses from the previous year by $2.5 million, or 7.5%.

* BENEFIT FALLS SHORT

An Opera Pacific production to raise money winds up costing it. F25

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