A Year of Beauty in numbers

Programming a sumptuous new production of Sleeping Beauty, initiating Storytime Ballet for children, adding a Sydney season of Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake at the Capitol Theatre and a season of Giselle in Melbourne all paid off for the Australian Ballet in 2015.

The repertoire for the year, themed by the company as ‘A Year of Beauty’, helped boost box office and performance fees by 22.5 per cent on the previous year, with income totalling $31.5 million.

However the costs associated with staging and performing the artistic program, including employee and other expenses, were $46.2 million. This resulted in a net performance gap deficit of $14 million.

The company’s annual report shows the net consolidated result for the financial year ending December 2015 was a surplus of $3.15 million.

Of course the company’s income is not only from box office and performance fees but also from government grants, the Australian Ballet Foundation (donations, bequests and investment income), commercial activities such as property rental and car parking at the company’s headquarters in Melbourne, fund raising (annual giving and sponsorships), income from Orchestra Victoria, (a subsidiary of the Australian Ballet), and investment and interest income.

The big increase in income last year came from government grants, with total funding last year at $16.2 million compared with $9.4 million the previous year, however the two years aren’t comparable.

Libby Christie, executive director of the Australian Ballet, explained: “The major difference is that 2015 includes 12 full months of base funding for Orchestra Victoria, versus six months for the prior year when we took over Orchestra Victoria on 1 July 2014, as well as some one-off funds provided for restructuring Orchestra Victoria”.

Other government funds included a final payout of around $293,000 for a fitout for the Australian Ballet’s production centre, and funding assistance for the company’s China tour.

Sponsorships and donations also increased to $4.1 million last year compared with $3.1 million the previous year. Funding for The Sleeping Beauty is likely to be a factor in the rise.

Other income streams declined. Foundation donations and bequests fell to $5.3 million last year compared with $9.3 million the previous year.

There was a fall in cash and cash equivalents on hand at the end of last year – $10.6 million – in comparison with the beginning of the year – $23.1 million.

This was due to endowed funds of $13 million, previously held as cash, being transferred to the company’s investment assets, which totalled $48 million at the end of 2015.

In the annual report Libby Christie referred to the Australian Ballet’s 2015-2019 strategic plan that “commits the company to innovation through digital transformation.

“Our in-theatre audience growth is now complemented by our expanding online community.

“Overall, the Australian Ballet’s digital content was shared with 4.3 million people worldwide in 2015.

“We were delighted that 350,000 people tuned into the live stream of our global digital initiative, World Ballet Day.

“Our recording and broadcast partnership with Foxtel enabled 200,000 viewers to get behind the scenes with Sleeping Beauty: Behind the Curtain and then experience the full production with a broadcast of David McAllister’s The Sleeping Beauty”.

Marketing and communications is an important element of the company as indicated by expenditure of $8.8 million last year compared with $7.3 million the previous year.

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Lana Jones in David McAllister’s The Sleeping Beauty, Australian Ballet, photo © Jeff Busby

Artists of the Australian Ballet, Giselle, photo © Jeff Busby

Adam Bull and Amber Scott, Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake, Australian Ballet, photo © Jim McFarlane