Sunday 24 September 2017

Box-office hits help Abbey return to profit

BOX-office successes, including George Bernard Shaw's 'Major Barbara' and Frank McGuinness's dramatisation of 'The Dead' by James Joyce, at the Abbey Theatre are expected to contribute to the theatre producing a profit of €250,000 this year.

The national theatre's return to profit in 2013 follows two years of operating losses. Accounts filed by the Abbey Theatre with the Companies Office for 2012 show the company's operating losses increased to €1.4m last year.

Chiefly behind this was a cost of €969,393 relating to the Abbey closing its pension scheme. The figures show the Abbey recorded a loss of €434,161 in the 12 months to the end of December last, before the pension cost is factored in.

The statements point out that the Abbey is on target to record a €251,000 surplus for 2013. The theatre's expected return to profit in 2013 coincides with the Arts Council's plans for an independent review of the operations of the Abbey. This includes an examination of costs and staffing resources and, according to the Arts Council, "will identify if the theatre could be operated in a more efficient manner".

The review was welcomed by Abbey director Fiach MacConghail, who said it "will increase the Arts Council's understanding of how we plan and operate our business.".

The Abbey has received €7.1m from the Arts Council this year, bringing the total it received from the council in the last three years to €21.3m. Without the funds, the theatre would have losses of €7.5m last year.

On the decision to shut down the pension scheme, the directors' report states that the decision was made "due to substantial deficit on the scheme, despite every effort to fund the scheme since 2006".

The figures also show that Mr MacConghail's salary increased to €122,057 last year when a pension contribution of €12,857 is included.

The Abbey's income last year fell 4pc from €4.4m to €4.2m, with spending declining by more than €100,000 to €11.9m.

Gordon Deegan

Irish Independent

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