The Esplanade suffered a sharp drop in ticketing income in its last financial year ending March 2013. Box office takings stood at $4.35 million, down from $7.45 million the year before, according to its latest annual report.
This led to an overall reduction in total income earned by Singapore's premier arts centre, which counts sponsorships, venue hire and rentals from its mall as other revenue streams. Total income fell from $31.27 million to $28.98 million.
Checks with previous years' annual reports show that last year's ticketing income was the lowest in the past five years, falling below box office receipts earned during the financial crisis of 2009, when it received $4.62 million.
The drop in total income was offset by grants from the Government and takings from the Esplanade's other associate companies and venues, such as ticketing group Sistic and the Drama Centre at the National Library. This led the Esplanade to close the last financial year with a small net balance of $137,000, compared to about $2 million the year before.
The $600-million complex first opened in 2002. The Esplanade explained its drop in ticketing income by pointing to its 10th anniversary celebrations in 2012. The company had programmed a series of activities and events in conjunction with its birthday bash and ticket prices were deliberately kept low.
The report also said that the Esplanade has reached a "steady state" in a year that was "marked by an uncertain economic climate and high inflation", where it was difficult to increase other sources of income due to the fact that its performing venues and its mall were "optimised".
It added: "With increasing competition from new venues, our profile of hirers has changed towards more local productions, which have shorter runs, smaller inventory, lower average price and ticket sales, thus leading to lower venue income at (the) Esplanade."
Some new venues that have emerged over the past few years include theatres at Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, as well as a concert hall at The Star Vista.
However, one source of income which grew for the Esplanade is sponsorship and donations, which rose from about $5.5 million in the financial year before to about $6 million last year.
As a non-profit organisation, it is heavily dependent on grants and sponsorship; its earned income is never enough to cover its operating costs. The Esplanade received about $46 million in grants last year from the Government and the National Arts Council in the last financial year.
Ticketed and non-ticketed attendance at the arts centre has been rising steadily over the years, from about 1.8 million five years ago to around 2 million today, despite a small drop between this year and the last.