Canceled shows have cost Thalia Mara Hall more than a 10th of its budget this year, and city officials are unsure exactly how they will make up that loss.
The municipal auditorium closed its doors in mid-March, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Since then, more than 20 events have been canceled or postponed.
Those cancellations have cost the theater $75,000 through June.
Those funds would have been used to help the auditorium meet its annual budget, as well as pay for improvements to the historic hall.
Meanwhile, new shows likely won’t be booked for at least several more months.
“Right now, we don’t have much of anything on the calendar until September or October,” said David Lewis, deputy director of cultural services for the city of Jackson and manager of Thalia Mara.
Shows quashed range from Broadway performances to high school graduations.
The Broadway season typically runs from October to April, with Broadway in Jackson and Jackson Live bringing in about 10 shows collectively.
In May, Thalia Mara is typically booked for numerous high school and college commencement ceremonies.
“In June, sometimes we’ll have a Broadway show. Blue Man Group was scheduled for two weeks ago, which has been postponed,” Lewis said. “They are working for a new date in 2021.”
Other events canceled this year include “Blippi: The Musical,” and “Jeanne Robertson: The Still Rocking Tour” as well as events put on by the Mississippi Opera and the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra.
The symphony’s last performance this year would have helped cap the nonprofit art group’s 75th season, Lewis said.
The next event slated for the hall is October 2, when Jenna Bush Hager is expected to speak. However, tickets for that program were on hold at press time.
In all, the losses have amounted to approximately $75,000, more than 10 percent of the auditorium’s $665,000 annual budget.
Said Lewis, “We’ll be able to absorb a little of that loss, but it’s still going to be tough.”
The facility brings in revenues through flat-rate rentals and ticket sales.
“If you’re charging admission, we get 10 percent of the sales, with a cap at $3,000,” Lewis said. “The other piece is, for an event where tickets are sold, we get a $3 facility fee that is tacked onto the ticket.
“What we try to make at the end of the day is the amount needed to run the facility, plus the amount we need to pay for the renovation work we did.”
In 2014, the city completed $5 million in renovations to the hall, including adding new heating and air conditioning units, installing new seats and carpeting, renovating restrooms and bringing the facility into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Jackson issued bonds to help fund the improvements.
“Once we finish paying off the note, we will keep the fee in place so we can make some more renovations,” Lewis said. “We are planning phase two now.”
The loan is guaranteed by the city, meaning that the note will still be paid.
Lewis is hopeful that the 2020-21 season will be the hall’s best season ever, in part, because promoters are looking to reschedule events from the current season.
However, he said it depends on when the Broadway tours will begin and when other promoters are willing to book.
Broadway promoters are yet to book shows because some theaters in the country are still closed.
“Some crews have 60 or more people. It’s hard to go to one city, because their productions are on such a large scale,” he said. “So much goes into a stop and so many people work so hard, and they have to get paid for it.”
At the same time, officials with the Actors’ Equity Association said that it is still not safe for actors to go back to work.
According to a May 26 report in the Washington Post, the union “said conditions for productions to resume have not been met anywhere in the country.”
Lewis said he and his staffers are working with promoters to ensure that all actor and crew member needs will be met.
“We’re getting ourselves ready – getting the supplies we need, thinking through signage and how we do certain things,” he said. “We will be in touch with promoters and various groups that come into the facility to make whatever accommodations that need to be made.”