Facing an increasingly long and painful shutdown, the Kimmel Center is furloughing 80% of its staff, and cutting pay and hours on a sliding scale for its remaining workers.
By December, the city’s largest performing arts presenter will have missed out on revenue from about 800 shows, events, and rentals since mid-March, when it closed the doors to its halls because of the coronavirus pandemic. These events would have been attended by about 700,000 visitors, said Kimmel president and CEO Anne C. Ewers.
Now, the Kimmel foresees no touring Broadway shows, its big cash cow, through the end of 2020. The arts center also anticipates holding no other “Kimmel Center Presents” shows — including performers and speakers like David Sedaris — through the end of the year.
The Kimmel in recent years has shifted to become less reliant on philanthropy and more on earned revenue, and currently earns 93% of its income. Now, said Ewers, “those earned lines of revenue are gone, between selling of tickets and rentals and catering. It’s all gone."
As a result, the center is facing a potential $5.3 million shortfall on its $54 million budget for the fiscal year ending June 30. Budget cuts and a special campaign are underway, says Ewers, and if fund-raising is successful, the deficit could be whittled to between $1.5 million and $2.5 million.
About 110 workers are covered by the furloughs and pay reductions, effective June 22. Ushers and other staff were let go in March when the COVID-19 shutdown of performances began. Of the remaining staffers, all will take cuts to hours and compensation of between 20% and 80%, Ewers said.
The Kimmel’s buildings — Verizon Hall, Perelman Theater, the Academy of Music, and the Merriam Theater — stand to be effectively mothballed. Climate control and security will continue as needed.
The Kimmel may open its halls to resident companies interested in mounting shows in coming months. But it is not clear what kind of fees the Kimmel would charge them for putting on those events.
“We’re right now in conversation with them,” said Ewers. New expenses like COVID-19-related cleaning and staff to take temperatures as patrons enter would have to be somehow covered, she said.
Joan Myers Brown, Philadanco’s founder, said it was too soon to know whether the company can return to the Kimmel between now and the end of the year. “We have to get a breakdown of what it would really cost,” she said, adding that another unknown was whether audiences would be ready to once again gather.
“It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s 20% more or 100% more, because I can’t afford it,” said Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia executive director Anne Hagan of potentially higher fees at the Kimmel. The ensemble is looking at venues elsewhere in the city for its fall season, she said.
For Opera Philadelphia, its O20 Festival in September is practically around the corner.
“We have not received any formal information in writing from the Kimmel Center," said a statement from an opera spokespersonn. "Conversations about the availability of the venues are ongoing. We are currently scenario-planning and exploring ways that we can be safely active for a fall season and Festival O20.”
The company hopes to have an update about its fall plans to discuss by early July.
Philadelphia Orchestra president and CEO Matías Tarnopolsky said he would like to see the orchestra back “on the playing field" somewhere. “We are exploring all options,” he said. “Verizon Hall is the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra. We love performing there, and as soon as it’s safe to do so, we’d like to be on the stage.”
The Philly Pops is keeping its options open, talking to the Kimmel about performances there next season but also anticipating shows at the Met Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Ballet executive director Shelly Power said the company is aiming to announce in July a decision on whether fall plans for Cinderella and The Nutcracker at the Academy of Music can proceed.
Philadelphia Chamber Music Society artistic director Miles Cohen said the group is starting to look at options beyond the Kimmel’s Perelman Theater for the fall. The presenter hopes to delay as many concerts as possible until spring but might hold events elsewhere with a small, socially distanced audience and simultaneous livestreaming.
“Musicians are struggling today like never before," Cohen said, “and when the outbreak is over we will all be in much need of the beauty and healing powers that they are uniquely able to provide.”
As for whether touring Broadway will return — and the audiences and revenue with it — after Jan. 1, Ewers said: “It’s so hard to know.”
A related question: whether government-mandated distancing guidelines will allow for the audience of the size that brings in enough money to justify a live performance. “If they allow groups of only up to 250, that doesn’t do much for us. You can’t afford Broadway with that few people," she said.