The Esplanade posts $9 million surplus in last financial year, recovers from previous year's loss

The Esplanade has posted a $9 million surplus in the last financial year, recovering from its $2.3 million deficit in the previous financial year.
The Esplanade has posted a $9 million surplus in the last financial year, recovering from its $2.3 million deficit in the previous financial year.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - The Esplanade, Singapore's national performing arts centre, has posted a $9 million surplus in the last financial year, bouncing back from its $2.3 million deficit in the previous financial year.

This marks a reversal from last year's gloomy prognosis after the arts venue, faced with stiffer competition for sponsorship, incurred a loss for the first time since its inception 12 years ago.

The Esplanade called it a "higher than expected balance". It noted in its annual report released on Friday that while it had closed this financial year with a greater deficit of $51.2 million, compared to $46.7 million last year, this was offset mainly by government grants and rental subsidies of $59.4 million, a sharp spike from $43.7 million last year.

It also attributed the increase in sponsorship to funding for SG50 celebrations, which in turn "cushioned the lower income in programme sponsorship". Its sponsorship for the last financial year, which ended in March, stood at $5.6 million, up from $4.4 million in the previous financial year.

Ticketing revenue, however, dipped in the past financial year to $5.6 million from $6 million. And while non-ticketed attendance crept up slightly to 1.4 million from 1.38 million in the same period, ticketed attendance fell to 17.5 million from 18 million.

This was due to the five-month closure of the Esplanade Theatre for upgrading, as well as cancellation of performances during the period of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's passing, said Mr Benson Puah, the Esplanade's chief executive officer.

The report also forecast that with new players such as the Capitol Theatre and Mediapolis@one-north opening this year, the Esplanade will face greater competition in terms of venue and event income.

Going forward, the Esplanade will make "strategic shifts" to focus on creating local content and building capacity in the local arts industry, said Mr Puah.

Speaking to Life via email, The Esplanade's assistant chief executive Yvonne Tham outlined its three main thrusts - it will work with local artists to commission and produce new works, introduce schemes to support artists while refining existing ones, and nurture emerging talent.

Examples include the plays Yusof and Ma'Ma Yong, respectively directed by Zizi Azah and Najib Soiman, as well as arts development programmes such as da:ns lab and Baybeats Budding Bands, she said.

Said Mr Puah in the report: "With an increasingly busy arts landscape, it is inevitable that our challenges... will continue to grow. We regard this as a positive effect resulting from what we set out to do: to develop a vibrant arts scene for Singapore."