Don Bluth Front Row Theatre of Scottsdale needs to raise $50,000 by the end of August 2016 to continue operations, the company announced via press release on Wednesday, June 29. The news follows Arizona Theatre Company’s announcement on Monday, June 27, that it needs to raise $2 million to stay afloat.
Don Bluth Front Row Theatre was founded in the mid-1990s by film animation professional Don Bluth, whose credits include several Disney films, as well as The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, and The Land Before Time.
At first, Bluth simply offered his home as a place for local youth to perform, says Curtis Watson, a producer with the company. But adults also wanted to get into the act, and Bluth ended up presenting several seasons of performance in his Scottsdale home – until securing another venue in 2012, which is when he incorporated Don Bluth Front Row Theatre.
The theater company typically presents 10 productions each year, with a budget of about $150,000 to $200,000, Watson says. He’s part of the four-person team that handles all the creative and administrative tasks for the company. Also on the team are Bluth, Roger McKay, and Cheryl Shaar.
Ticket sales account for about 40 percent of their revenue, Watson says. The remaining 60 percent comes from donations, although the company recently hired a grant-writer hoping to add that funding stream into the mix. Recently, a major donor moved out of the area, he says. And donors who have given time and time again can’t be expected to do so forever.
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Hoping to increase future ticket sales, the company took a calculated risk earlier this year – creating something called the 500 Club, which basically let people buy tickets for eight remaining 2016 shows for a total of $96. Normally general admission tickets are $25 per show. Watson says the company figured it would encourage more people to attend their productions – and that those patrons would then decide to buy tickets for their 2017 shows.
But the strategy raised didn’t result in enough ticket sales to keep the theater solvent for more than another four or five months, Watson says. So now Don Bluth Front Row Theatre is faced with the prospect of closing if it can’t raise $50,000 to cover 2017 production costumes, sound, lighting, and royalties – which Watson says can run as much as $5,000 for musicals.
“This is our last-ditch effort,” Watson says.