The Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts opened its doors in 1988 thanks to the visionary leadership of Dr. Maxwell C. King, the former president of Brevard Community College. The funding for this ambitious venture came from the Florida Legislature and totaled $12.3 million, which when measured by today’s standards, is an absolute bargain.
Since that time, the King Center has had a profound impact on the cultural and artistic landscape of Brevard County and Central Florida. One name that is associated with the Center, almost as much as Dr. King’s is Steve Janicki who has served as the Executive Director for more than 24 years. From business management and selecting new shows to tracking demographic and cultural trends, the proverbial buck stops at Janicki’s desk. Just a few years ago, those bucks were really starting to pile up.
Recession and the Arts
Though nearly every business has felt it, few were hit as hard as those organizations that nurture the community’s cultural environment. As Janicki reflected, “The three years before the economic downturn were the most profitable in our history. Philanthropic giving was up and we were scheduling some of the best shows the Center has hosted.” Then came the recession, “Our dilemma was that we program not just months, but sometimes years in advance. Plus, to have a major Broadway play come to the Center, we were required to commit to eight shows, which means we needed to sell close to 16,000 tickets per production to stay in the black. The problem was, people were not coming to the theatre like they once did, yet we had an ethical responsibility to honor the contacts we had made.” Needless to say, things got very difficult, very quickly.
Fortunately the King Center has a sort of “Golden Parachute” the Brevard Community College Endowment. It was there to help cover the deficits that would have doomed other organizations. However, for Janicki’s and the King Center’s Board of Directors, rapid changes had to be made to right the institution and not deplete the Endowment.
New Conditions, New Approach
With advisors on the King Center’s Board such as former Harris CEO Phillip (Phil) W. Farmer, Janicki began to reassess their lineup while maintaining what he calls, their “Palette of Performances.” Farmer explained, “the King Center isn’t booking shows that require a commitment of more than 2-3 performances in the main theater, verses the 7-day, 8 performance guarantee.” Therefore, “we will have to forego some blockbuster Broadway touring shows such as ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ However we have attracted ‘My Fair Lady,’ ‘Mama Mia,’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and other great Broadway productions which can live with a two or three performance commitment.”
Staying the Course
Janicki went on to explain that it is the diverse offering of more profitable shows, that help the Center fulfill its artistic mandate of classical music concerts and ballets, which generally do not produce as much revenue. Board Chairman Stephen G. Charpentier confirmed this, “the King Center has changed its direction a bit, but not its vision. The Center provides quality entertainment at an affordable price. By looking to the shows that best suit the desires of our community, with an eye toward selling the maximum tickets with the least overhead, the King Center has been able to better manage its budget and not suffer a major revenue loss on any given production. Through the guidance of Steve Janicki we have been quite successful in this regard.”
Looking to the future Farmer concludes, “I continue to be excited about bringing world-class entertainers and shows to a world-class performing arts center in Brevard County.”
To read the complete article pick up a copy of November’s SpaceCoast Business or visit SpaceCoastBusiness.com