Despite reporting huge profits in its 2014 Annual Report, Senator Brandis awards $150k additional funds.

The Australian Ballet have reported one of its biggest ever profits in its 2014 Annual Report, registering a surplus of $8.54 million. The huge sum bettered 2013’s profits by almost $2 million. However the report also revealed a continuing trend of a deficit between ticket sales and performance costs. The company achieved box office takings of $25.5 million – $14.4 million less than the $39.9 million cost of staging the company’s artistic programme, showing a “performance gap” of 64%.

Despite this, the occupancy of Australian Ballet’s performances remained consistent with previous years, achieving 84% capacity on average across the company’s 184 performances last year, with more than 274,000 patrons attending. Melbourne and Sydney performances were best attended, achieving 83% and 91% capacity respectively, however performances in Brisbane only managed to achieve 45% attendance, and performances during the company’s tour of Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake to the United States were also less well attended than anticipated.

The company was able to report total earnings of $56.1 million thanks to millions of dollars in donations and philanthropy from the Australian Ballet Foundation as well as commercial activities such as leasing of the company’s capital assets. In total the company “self-generated” income was $46.4 million, equalling almost 80% of its total income. Just 20% – $11.7million – of the company’s revenue came from Government subsidy.

The overwhelming success story reported by the Australian Ballet is a stark contrast to the disappointing Opera Australia Annual Report, which revealed a consolidated deficit of $918,059 in 2014. Opera Australia also received over double the amount of taxpayer funding – over $25 million – than that received by Australian Ballet in 2014.

However, despite the substantial surplus, an addition $150,000 of government funding was awarded to the Australian Ballet to support the company’s upcoming tour of China. The award was announced yesterday evening in Canberra by Arts Minister George Brandis, who is currently at the centre of a major controversy relating to a significant restructuring of the national arts funding infrastructure outlined in the 2015/16 Federal Budget. The funding comes from existing Ministry for the Arts appropriations and not from the newly announced National Programme for Excellence in the Arts, but the discretionary government contribution is consistent with Senator Brandis’ commitment to ring-fencing funding to Australia’s largest arts companies.

In a statement Senator Brandis said, “The Australian Government is an ardent and committed supporter of the Australian Ballet, as we are an ardent and committed supporter of all of our great arts companies. The Australian Government is contributing $150,000 in addition to the regular funding of the Australian Ballet to support this tour.” While the additional funds were committed to Australian Ballet in February this year, along with financial support for international projects for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, The National Film and Sound Archive and the Australian World Orchestra, the timing of the announcement, following the company’s favorable financial report and in the wake of the Federal Budget announcement, has fuelled fears among the arts community that in future the largest companies in Australia will receive disproportionate funding at the expense of small-to-medium scale companies.

Senator Brandis also made a separate announcement that $1.28 million over four years ($320,000 annually) was to be awarded to Bell Shakespeare to fund its education programme. “Since 2008, this program has introduced more than half a million students across Australia, including in regional and remote areas, to the joy of theatre and, in particular, to the incomparable glories of William Shakespeare as well as other great dramatists,” said Brandis.

Read our new magazine online