The costs of facilitating Cate Blanchett’s Broadway debut and converting Muriel’s Wedding into a stage musical have left the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) with a $4.2 million budget blowout.
The nation’s busiest theatrical not-for-profit recorded the biggest deficit in its 39-year history, after production costs increased by $9 million, to $32 million for the 2017 season, bookended by The Present on Broadway and the long-awaited premiere of Muriel’s Wedding the Musical.
The deficit follows two successive modest surpluses and was recorded despite only a small decline in subscriber numbers.
STC chairman Ian Narev, the outgoing chief executive of the Commonwealth Bank, declined to discuss the result described by one company insider as “a howler”.
In STC’s annual report, Mr Narev partly attributed the deficit to income from Muriel’s Wedding not being accounted for until 2018.
“We lost corporate sponsorships worth approximately $250,000 due to non-renewals, which is symptomatic of an environment in which corporate community spending is coming down,” he wrote.
Scrutiny of the report, however, revealed all major partnerships and presenting partnerships remained intact from 2016 to 2017.
British Airways became an associate partner replacing Fuji Xerox and STC’s annual report boasted 12 season partners, unchanged from the previous year.
For the first time since chief executive Patrick McIntyre joined STC in 2010 he was unavailable to discuss the results, but via email he confirmed the increase in production costs as “very significant”.
“The Present on Broadway and Muriel’s Wedding are two of the largest productions the company has ever undertaken,” Mr McIntyre wrote.
STC, which received $6 million from state and federal governments, will cover the shortfall with its reserves.
The annual report, published on May 30, made no mention of the campaign to end sexual harassment in live performance, despite STC being a signatory to a statement wherein Australian theatre companies committed to ending abuse in the industry.
STC has been embroiled in litigation with The Daily Telegraph and Geoffrey Rush after the actor accused the newspaper of defamation when in November it claimed he’d harassed a young actor in STC’s production of King Lear.
Mr McIntyre said, “We are fortunate to have Allens Linklaters as a sponsor. However there is no requirement to disclose [legal costs].”