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O.C. arts snapshot: Prices rise, access falls

October 13, 2006|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

Prices are up, attendance is down, fewer schoolkids are getting free exposure to the arts, and Orange County's museums and performing arts presenters are not feeling terribly bullish about the immediate future, according to a study of the O.C. cultural landscape issued Thursday by Chapman University's Anderson Center for Economic Research.

The study is the latest in a series of economic snapshots Chapman scholars have been taking of the county's nonprofit arts sector every four years since 1990. Taking figures from the 2005 fiscal year and comparing them with the last survey results, from 2001, the study found that the average arts admission price climbed 25%, from $24 to $30, while paid attendance declined 7%, from 1.9 million to 1.8 million.

When freebies, which accounted for 26% of all admissions, were factored in, overall attendance at the 38 institutions in the four-year comparison dropped 8.5% -- from 2.7 million in 2001 to 2.5 million in 2005. Free children's admissions took a particularly big hit, declining 21%, from 560,000 to 441,000.

Esmail Adibi, director of the Anderson Center, said the attendance drop happened across the board rather than at just one or two troubled institutions that could bring down the averages. With developments such as the new concert hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Adibi said, there's a danger that programming could turn even more toward elite acts charging top dollar, leading to less accessibility for folks with limited budgets.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday October 15, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Arts snapshot: A Friday Calendar article about an economic survey of Orange County's cultural landscape misspelled the first name of Chapman University economist Esmael Adibi as Esmail.

Across the arts scene, Adibi said, institutions "have to blend that with programming that has a reasonable price attached to it, to draw more audience."

When it comes to the bottom line, the Chapman study showed that, on the whole, the Orange County arts sector is holding its own. The institutions surveyed, including all the biggest ones, reaped a $4.2-million surplus during 2005. Income totaled $130 million, and expenditures were $125.8 million.

Still, Adibi said, responses to a survey question about expectations for the current fiscal year showed that arts leaders "are much more pessimistic" than they were four years ago about prospects for growth, especially in sales and admissions.

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