Carolina Theatre reports surplus

Dec. 02, 2013 @ 05:52 PM

The Carolina Theatre of Durham Inc. completed the 2012-13 fiscal year with a financial surplus, its first profitable year since 2008, according to audited financial statements presented to its Board of Trustees.

The non-profit recorded a surplus of $68,730, its second-highest since 2002 and the fourth-best year in the organization’s 22-year history. The 2013 surplus marks a $266,000 improvement in annual performance from the prior year, and comes as the organization’s annual revenue has grown by more than $1 million in just the past two years, an increase of 41 percent, the theater reported.

The management of the theater attributed the improvements to more shows and films, better rental income and recent renovations to the facility. The improvements in income also come five years after the opening of the 2,700-seat Durham Performing Arts Center, which increased competition for local arts venues.

“We’ve found a combination of programming that works at a level for us,” said Bob Nocek, who took over as president and CEO in July 2010. With 1,032 seats, Fletcher Hall is a good fit for artists whose audiences are too big for small clubs and who want a sit-down concert experience, Nocek said.

“We’ve also found a really specific creative identity in our film programming. We’re doing more special programming and retrospectives,” Nocek said. In 2011 the theater was closed for renovations, which along with better projection equipment in the cinemas and better sound equipment has made for “a more quality experience,” he said.

Guest artists in the theater’s Star Series increased from 25 to 60 shows in fiscal year 2012-2013. Two conventions, N.C. Comicon and Escapist Expo, have made the theater their home, along with the Durham Convention Center and other surrounding venues. The Arts Market, held every two years, also presented its artist showcases in the theater.

The Carolina Theatre Inc. is a nonprofit organization that operates the theater under a management agreement with the city of Durham. The city pays about $614,000 a year to the corporation to run the theater, Nocek said. The organization is working under a one-year extension while working out another long-term agreement with the city. Nocek said he is confident the theater will have a long-term contract in January or February.

According to the theater’s release, since Nocek was named president and CEO in 2010, total revenue has increased by 41 percent, from $2.4 million to more than $3.5 million. In fiscal 2013 alone, the Carolina revenue increased by 22 percent over the prior year, to $3,526,209 against expenses of $3,457,479. 

The Carolina Theatre lost $224,000 in the 2011 fiscal year, as a result of programming losses and costs associated with rebuilding the organization. In 2011, the theater was closed for four months for city of Durham renovations, and lost $188,072. An analysis prepared by the theater’s accountant estimated the impact of the closure at $104,000.

At the conclusion of the most recent fiscal year, the theater’s deficit stands at $266,135, which Nocek said he anticipates eliminating over the next three to four years.

Other highlights from the audit:

-- The Star Series – shows presented by the non-profit – have increased from approximately 25 performances to 60 in 2012-13. Overall, ticket sales for Carolina Theatre-presented live events have grown from a previous high of roughly $600,000 a year to more than $1.4 million in 2013.

-- Cash donations surpassed $300,000 for only the second time in the organization’s history.

-- The complex’s main theater, Fletcher Hall, was used on 315 days in fiscal 2013.

-- Net revenue from rental programs has increased by 35 percent over the past three years.

-- Concessions gross revenue exceeded $310,000 in 2013, up from $149,000 in 2009.

-- Average monthly film ticket sales are up more than 50 percent since reopening after renovations in 2011.