|Curtis Theatre staff and Community Services Deputy Director Carrie Hernandez have reviewed several options for the proposed 2023/24 Curtis Theatre Season. The artists and productions included in the proposed season were evaluated on marketability to the existing Curtis Theatre audience, strong box office potential, positive cost recovery, and artistic presentation. Decisive factors in selecting artists and material for the proposed season include artists’ proximity, negotiation of artist terms, ticket pricing, number of performances, and staff time. The proposed season combines carefully selected professional touring artists as well as notable local theatre production companies with “back-by-popular-demand” audience favorites. Additionally, careful attention has been paid to the level of diversity and opportunities offered to the local theatre community.
With 199 seats, the Curtis Theatre can offer an up-close and intimate performance experience, unlike any other. While a strength, the Theatre’s size also limits its return on investment for a single performance. The 2023/24 Season includes a variety of guest artist performances from music and musicals to family programming.
The rising cost of presenting quality live performance continues. Staff has cultivated relationships with professional artists and management companies to negotiate fees well below market rate or to work on a split of house arrangement. Shows proposed are expected to cover direct costs, i.e. artist fee, equipment rentals, and hospitality, however, these costs continue to rise each year. To reduce transportation and housing costs, locally-based artists are often sought out. For hospitality, staff is continually looking for sponsorships, partnerships, and donors to help defray costs.
Even after surveying audience trends over the past year, it remains very difficult to predict what and how any given show will sell. Consumer confidence remains questionable and even sure-fire sellout shows are now at risk of low turnout. Bearing this in mind, staff is committing to exploring new avenues for advertising and thinking outside the box to engage with new potential audiences in an effort to reach patrons who may not be aware of the Curtis Theatre or its wide array of offerings.
The proposed season contains a variety of different price points. At present, the Curtis Theatre’s ticket prices are comparable to or lower than neighboring facilities offering the same level of entertainment. Proposed ticket fees range from $10 to $40. The Theatre will continue to offer discounts for seniors, active military families, first responders, subscribers, group sales, and students, in addition to targeted special offers through a variety of marketing efforts such as Goldstar events, online marketing, and coupon codes.
Brea’s Youth Theatre:
For more than 30 years, the Theatre has partnered with the Brea-based non-profit, Stagelight Productions, to produce both Brea’s Youth Theatre productions. Since 1991, Brea’s Youth Theatre has been a vital part of Theatre programming. The program consistently draws approximately 500 participants, produces two large-scale musicals annually (equating to 36 public performances), four field-trip shows, and draws 7,960 ticket buyers on an annual basis. The program also receives more than 1,000 hours of annual volunteer support. From planning to performance, Theatre staff spends approximately 10 months annually managing this flagship program. Currently, the City has a one-year contract with Stagelight and recommends continuing the partnership.
The Curtis Theatre season provides only a portion of the Theatre’s annual revenue. On average, the Theatre manages a Facility Rental Program that hosts approximately 200 events, drawing an additional 35,000 visitors and earning approximately $130,000 in revenue. The proposed 2023/24 season has successfully met the scheduling requests of nearly all the Theatre’s regular rental clients. Ambassador Church has been replaced by Renew Church who continues to host their weekly worship and special holiday services at the theatre.
Each year, the Curtis Theatre projects revenue that contributes toward the Theatre’s operating expenses. The Theatre Rental program, the Brea’s Youth Theatre Program, the Theatre season, along with concession sales and handling fees, are important contributors to the Theatre’s annual community commitment of balance and fiscal responsibility.
Staff believes that the proposed 2023/24 season has several opportunities for community involvement while offering a wide variety of entertainment, high-caliber artists, and the potential to meet cost recovery and revenue goals with current staffing levels.
The Amplify initiative was created to provide a forum for marginalized performing artists and to showcase them in the Curtis Theatre season. For 2023/24, there are four such slots in the schedule. This program, which was conceived by staff and approved unanimously by the Cultural Arts Commission, is guided by an advisory board comprised of local theatre aficionados and artists. Once chosen, this board acts as ambassadors to bring new voices to the Curtis Theatre and encourage them to apply for a spot in the program. After the deadline, the board will then review all artist submissions and recommend the ones to be highlighted this season. The goal of this effort is primarily to shine a light on underrepresented artists, but also to provide outreach to communities and individuals and raise awareness about the Curtis Theatre and the arts in Brea as a whole.