The Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center was operating about $185,000 in the red at the end of 2018, despite receiving over $1 million in subsidies from the city. A foundation that was created to provide additional financial support has not yet done so after hitting some snags.
The revenue between August to December was $1.9 million, including performances, private rentals, the city subsidy and parking income. Expenditures cost the city over $2.09 million, including parking, putting the PAC in the red by $184,803.
The PAC was budgeted to bring in $5.2 million in revenue and spend over $3.3 million by July, the end of the fiscal year.
The PAC experienced major leadership changes in its early months since opening last August. The general manager departed and the city has stopped using a third-party management company. The city has said it will keep tweaking the operations as it learns how to operate an event venue, including a recent action to make on-street parking free.
Financial records that end in December, the latest available, show PAC performances often post at least some profit, but vary widely in attendance and costs.
In October, the Prague Philharmonic Children’s Choir, which only brought 146 people into the 1,070-seat Byers Theatre, lost $556. “The Fun Show with Cat & Nat,” held Sept. 29, was attended by 688 people and had revenue of $15,441.
The PAC’s revenue through December included a $1.16 million subsidy that came from the city’s general fund and parking income of $185,120. Parking expenditures cost $370,858.
The Performing Arts Center is expected to be subsidized for five to 10 years by the general fund, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said.
“The city planned for, and the city’s monthly financials incorporate, a subsidy for the performing arts center to enable the PAC team time to learn the entertainment and rental mix most appropriate for the venue and community,” Kraun said in an email.
By the end of December, the PAC received $358,923 from events ticket sales and revenue. Revenue from facility rentals for private events totaled $188,815. “Miscellaneous income” totaled $7,833.
No performance through December appears to have completely filled all 1,070 seats in the Byers Theatre. But most shows still posted at least some profit.
Eight of the 24 individual shows were less than half full, according to the attendance numbers provided through a records request. Three events had over 900 people in attendance.
The attendance for individual shows produced by the City Springs Theatre Company, including the “Nutcracker” and “Elf: The Musical,” are unclear because city numbers for the multiple performances were totaled together.
The financial records, which were available for August to November and obtained through an open records request, show many events make some amount of profit, although some lose money. The PAC also has other expenditures not caused directly by events, including overhead and parking costs.
Many banquets and meetings held made thousands of dollars, according to records, such as a preview party for “Elf” that made $14,770.
Events hosted by the City Springs Theatre Company generally appear to make the most money, such as the “42nd Street” performances bringing in close to $50,000.
“Girl With No Job,” a show hosted by a social media celebrity, had an attendance of 827 people and brought in $10,208, according to records.
The PAC’s opening event on Aug. 11, a performance by Branford Marsalis achieved a profit of $47,841 and was nearly sold out, with 987 in attendance. A National Geographic event later in August lost $133 with 335 people attending.
The city hosted a big-ticket event in February with the performance of world-renowned violinist Izthak Perlman.
To help afford the Perlman performance and keep ticket prices low, the city enlisted several sponsorships. Contributors included the Sandy Springs Society; Atlanta Jewish Film Festival; Sandy Springs Development Authority, an independent agency that supports city economic development; RBM of Atlanta, a Mercedes-Benz dealer; Northside Hospital; and BB&T Bank.
“It was absolutely what the PAC was intended to be: a stage where world-class performers come in and we could sit there and just enjoy it,” Councilmember Tibby DeJulio said during the Feb. 19 City Council meeting.
The Sandy Springs Arts Foundation, which was was set up to handle naming rights, fundraising, arts education and subsidizing some City Springs programs, did not contribute to the Perlman performance.
The foundation has hit some snags and only recently began re-emerging with a new website and fundraising strategy after deciding to cut ties with the city and become private in September 2018.
Since then, the foundation has contributed a $100,000 grant to the arts programs implemented by the privately run City Springs Theatre Company and approved a major donation, Executive Director Emily Hutmacher said in an email. A brick-naming fundraiser has not been launched yet, but is expected to in the “coming weeks,” Hutmacher said.
The city will take on more of the responsibility of managing the PAC after the city and the third party company hired to operate City Springs parted ways in February. The contract was not expected to end until 2022, but after “extensive discussions” the two decided mutually to end the relationship, the city said.
Most employees chose to stay working at City Springs and were absorbed under existing city contracts. Seven people employed in the events or food and beverages staff were taken on under the city’s contract with Collaborative, a Boston-based firm that also provides staffing for the communications and community development departments. Two finance staff members are now employed under the Inframark contract, Kraun said.
The city has continued to tweak other parts of the City Springs operation. The complex opened with paid parking along the streets to keep spots open for retail customers, but it is now free now free after a change approved by the City Council at its Feb. 5 meeting.