HISTORIC AMERICAN THEATRES: AN ANALYSIS OF THE OPERATION AND MANAGEMENT OF RESTORED THEATRES
Growing efforts to restore and reuse historic American theatres as performing arts facilities stem largely from interest in historic preservation, increased participation in the performing arts and attendance growth at cultural events. Restored theatres are unique facilities, and their continued operation depends on effective management. There is little information available concerning the management and operation of restored theatres. The purposes of this study were to collect and analyze information regarding restored theatre operation, to identify major management problems, to gather advice from managers for persons in similar projects, and to develop guidelines for restored theatre operation. A mail questionnaire and structured telephone interview were used to collect data from fifty-five restored theatres throughout the United States. Criteria for theatres to be eligible for inclusion in this study were: (1) built prior to 1935, (2) location in a United States city or town of 500,000 population or less, (3) currently used for performing arts, and (4) completed one year of operation. For purposes of analysis, theatres were distinguished by size, ownership and general use. Size refers to seating capacity with theatres categorized as small, medium, large and very large. Owners included nonprofit corporations, city governments and others. General use included both multipurpose and single-use facilities, with multi-purpose divided into three subcategories: primarily community activities, both professional and community activities, and primarily professional events. Data analysis using crosstabulation revealed an association between general use and theatre size. Correlation analysis showed that amount of use as a spectator facility is related to the number of different types of activities presented. A general description of theatre operation was developed using frequencies, percents and measures of central tendency. The most extensive users of restored theatres were identified as professional and community theatre, and professional music groups. Theatre use varied by house size. Program activities in most theatres included professional theatre, music concerts, civic meetings, and community theatre and orchestra. Uses by resident and other groups were also identified. Amount of theatre use was measured by the number of days used for spectator events and rehearsals, and an index was constructed which expressed the degree to which theatres were filled on spectator days only, and also on a daily basis. Number of spectator days varied by general theatre use. Theatre personnel generally hired on a full-time basis included a manager, assistant manager, box office manager, secretary and custodian. Positions filled mainly by part - time personnel included stagehands, projectionists, security guards and electricians. Ushers and ticket-takers were either part-time or volunteers. Average salaries were reported, as well as types of union employees. Analysis of budget items was prevented by the limited number and poor quality of responses. However, additional sources of income and expenses were identified. Rental rates were reported for various size theatres. Operational success factors were identified and ranked. Community support and historical significance of the theatre were top ranked factors. Major problem areas included finance, programming, building structure, personnel and others. Advice from managers to persons involved in other theatre restoration projects included suggestions on planning, hiring consultants, community support, practical facilities, financial operation, programming and marketing. Guidelines were developed from information gathered in the study and contained suggestions for both pre-restoration planning and normal theatre operation.
Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our