Thank you everyone who came Monday night to give a warm welcome to Numa Saisselin, our new President of the Florida Theatre. Dave Henry, Chair of the Board of Directors, introduced our new leader to about 75 theatre supporters.
To gain some insight on the future of the Florida Theatre under Numa’s leadership, here are his remarks from Monday:
Shakespeare once wrote, “What’s past is prologue,” and although Laurie and I have been made to feel very, very welcome here in Jacksonville, we should be congratulating all of you for saving this beautiful building in the first place, and for keeping it open and alive the last 29 years.
We are all just temporary caretakers of these institutions, and we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. We must especially thank Erik Hart, our President for the last 25 years, since the theatre became its own entity in 1987.
If imitation or competition is the most sincere form of flattery, the FT’s success can be seen in everything that followed it, especially the Times Union Center and the St. Augustine Ampitheatre’s transition to a concert venue. The market presents us with daily and ever-changing challenges, but there is another way to look at this beside competition.
In business school, they ask you where the best place to put a gas station is, and the answer is, on the corner with another gas station, because then everyone learns that’s where you go to buy gas. In the same way, anything that makes northeast Florida, and especially downtown Jacksonville, an entertainment destination benefits all of us.
Last year the FT’s activity brought over 120,000 people downtown, and their activity generated an economic impact of between $5.2 and $7.2 million, depending whose formula you use. That money supported the full-time equivalent of 198 jobs.
That’s amazing, and without actually being quote-unquote “stimulus money,” if you know what I mean, it is in fact an economic stimulus that works. But here’s the kicker. I believe this theatre is underutilized.
We recently received a copy of an annual study that my friend and colleague, Herb Stratford, who runs a company named Historic Theatre Consultants, did of 98 historic theatres across the country. Exactly 50% of them presented fewer performances than we presented last year, and exactly 50% presented more than we did.
So, Goal #1 for the coming year is to increase the number of days and nights that the theatre is in use, and to expand our schedule so we’re presenting shows all year round, 12 months a year.
Goal #2 is to increase the diversity of the audience coming through our front doors, not just by increasing the number of shows, but by diversifying the types of shows we present to broaden our age, ethnic and racial appeal.
Goal #3 is to better understand the capital needs of our historic building, and to begin preparing to fund the work that needs to be done. It’s been 85 years since it was built and almost 30 years since the initial renovation, and we need to get out ahead of the building’s needs before they become critical.
And last, we will begin to expand our base of annual support by increasing the number of donors beyond our current circle of friends, and without saying any more than I should at this point, you can also look forward to the theatre’s first-ever annual gala next spring.
To close with a quote from another luminary of the arts and humanities, Dorothy Parker once said that the two most beautiful words in the English language are, “Check enclosed,” so I want to thank all of you for your support of this theatre, which makes it possible for me to come here and work for you.