The Mount Baker Theatre now has true regional impact with nearly 108,000 patrons walking through the doors this past season. It also hosted 377 different events in its various spaces and it boasts an incredibly experienced staff and extensive volunteer pool.
Mount Baker Theatre enjoys annual income streams in excess of $4 million. The theater employed 15 full-time, 6 part-time and 180 casual (ticket reps, stagehands, bartenders, concessions, etc.) employees this past year. But it also has one of the best organized and active volunteer groups of any theater in Washington State. We have more than 250 active volunteers who donated over 14,500 hours this past year.
We occasionally hear questions regarding the theater's finances, and even more often we field questions about ticket prices. Attending a performance at Mount Baker Theatre costs less than in Vancouver, Seattle or another large city, especially if you add travel and lodging costs to the ticket price. However, some still feel we should be able to reduce prices.
As a not-for-profit, our annual budget for each fiscal year is a matter of public record, but here is a big-picture overview. Because we are not-for-profit, the goal when finalizing the budget for board approval each year is to be balanced at a "zero"' bottom line. Ticket revenue represents about 51 percent of our total revenue stream. This means we would need to raise prices significantly to be self-sustaining on ticket revenue alone. So we work very hard to generate revenue from many other sources to bring top-quality performers here while keeping ticket prices as low as possible. This year's gala event featuring Steve Martin, Edie Brickell, and the Steep Canyon Rangers was a one such fund raising success story!
We rely heavily on sponsors like our season sponsor Saturna Capital, and other key sponsors like DIS Corp, Frank King Family, Fred Meyer, Life Rescue, Peoples Bank, Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery, RH2 Engineering, Roger Jobs Audi, The Unity Group, U.S. Bank Foundation, Wells Fargo, and Yorky's Market. Our Spotlight magazine is a publication created for each Mount Baker Theatre presentation and key advertisers highlight their business but also help us continue to affordably bring top-quality entertainment to Bellingham and Whatcom County. Some of our key advertisers are 12th Street Shoes, Bank of the Pacific, Barron Smith Daugert, Bellair Charters and Airporter, Bellingham Bar and Grill, Best Western Lakeway, Cruisin Coffee, Grand Ave Alehouse, Highland Care Center, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, Peoples Bank, Pepper Sisters, Quist Violins, RBC Wealth Management - Scott A. Hume, Samuels Furniture, TD Curran, The Bagelry, The Chrysalis, The Copper Hog, The Table, The Unity Group, Whidbey Island Bank, YMCA, and Yorky's Market.
Membership is another key source of revenue. When people become members their support helps us keep ticket prices down. Some popular benefits include advance notice about shows, priority seating and pre-show artist receptions.
One key reason Mount Baker Theatre has enjoyed stable sustained growth in spite of a sluggish economy is because of the management fee it receives from the city. Although this funding source is a small percent of the total budget, it is still a critical part of our equation for success. If this source of funding was lost, Mount Baker Theatre would need to more than double the number of shows on its season to replace it, something that would be impossible to do unless we also added a significant number of additional staff to help market and produce these extra shows. At some point, market saturation would occur and we wouldn't be able to sell enough tickets to justify booking the extra shows.
This management fee allows the city of Bellingham to enjoy all the benefits of owning a thriving performing arts center that brings in a significant amount of tourism, economic development, quality night life, and maintains a key iconic building in the heart of downtown for less than 10 percent of the actual cost of operating that facility. In addition, over the past 15 years nearly $15 million of non-city money has also gone into the building as a result of several fundraising drives by Mount Baker Theatre.
Here is a quick breakdown for our most recent fiscal year July 1 2013-June 30 2014: Ticket sales 50.8 percent, rental revenue 5.1 percent, sponsors 6.8 percent, membership 6.3 percent, special events 5.7 percent, city funding 7.9 percent, advertising 5 percent, endowment earnings 6 percent, other 6.5 percent.
Other revenue is comprised of concessions, merchandising, marketing services to renters, handling charges, operational grants, general contributions and interest.
Thanks to The Bellingham Herald for given me the opportunity to say a sincere thank you to our supporters. Without such strong and loyal support, Bellingham would not have the gift of this beautiful theater and the high-quality, diverse programs we are able to bring at prices way below what it actually costs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brad Burdick has been executive director of Mount Baker Theatre since 1997. For more information online, go to mountbakertheatre.com.