Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Worthy Cause: Support Local Artists

The Orpheum’s 19th Annual Art Sale is going in a new direction this year.  After eighteen years of silent and live auctions, this year’s format will allow local artists to set up their own display space in the theatre and talk directly with potential buyers about their original work or, in some cases, limited edition prints.  Artists will offer works in watercolor, oil, acrylic, sculpture, mixed media, and photography. 

This is an exciting change to our annual event.  The auction format didn't allow artists to talk to guests about their work, and due to limited space they were often limited to bringing a three select works of art. This new approach will allow the artist exhibit the full range of their talents by displaying as many pieces as their space will allow. 

The Annual Art Sale is important to the Orpheum for many reasons.  Not only do the artists have an opportunity to sell their work and get added exposure to the Memphis community, but it's also our way of thanking Memphis artists for the support that they give the Orpheum all year round, particularly during the Orpheum's Annual Auction event in the fall.  They support us, and we want to support them!    

Equally important to us is recognizing the fabulous (and numerous)local artists that are creating works that we all should have the opportunity to enjoy.  Back in the mid-seventies, I owned an art gallery located on Second Street in Downtown Memphis.  It was called the Court Square Gallery.  At the time, I did not know anything about operating a gallery.  I had visited hundreds of galleries across the country and in Europe, but only to browse or - on occasion - as a buyer.  But soon I learned a great deal about the challenges that so many artists endure when trying to make a living  as an artist.  As a result of my personal experiences, I have always looked for ways to support the artists that give so much to their communities. 

This year's Art Sale will take place Sunday, August 11th from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.  There will be a small admission fee of $10 which allows patrons to enjoy a wine tasting and a few treats provided by the Corked Carrot, an exciting new wine bar located in the historic South Main District.  There will also be a cash bar for those looking to enjoy spirits of another type.  You can get your tickets at the door or in advance online or by calling Brooke Thompson at 901-529-4224.

For any Memphis artists that would like to participate, please contact Brooke Thompson for more details.   

I hope to see you there,

Pat Halloran
Orpheum President and CEO

Friday, July 19, 2013

Memphis Healthcare: Something To Be Proud Of

I have a rare condition that I share with actress Kate Bosworth called Heterochromia Iridium.  What are the characteristics or identifiable indications of this condition?  The first 5 people who comment below with the correct answer will win 4 tickets to one of the Orpheum's 2013 Summer Movies.

The fantastic reputation and service that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital provides for very ill children from around the world is well known.  Le Bonheur Children's Hospital is also famous for extending service and medical care for our young people and greatly enhances the level of care that Memphis offers its kids.

Methodist HealthcareBaptist Memorial HospitalThe MED, and Saint Francis Hospital help to make up Memphis' many broad-based healthcare institutions, providing excellent service for the entire Mid-South Community. 

When we weigh the city's commitment to healthcare, we find that educating our future health care providers is another major strength.  The University of Tennessee Health Science Center churns out doctors, dentists, nurses and other healthcare professionals in almost every imaginable area of service.  The Southern College of Optometry is one of less than a half dozen institutes that sends Doctors of Optometry all over the nation to help those in need.  Nearly all of our local Community Colleges and Universities have programs that feed the need for healthcare professionals.    

The Church Health Center has created a model for providing health care for thousands of working class individuals that do not have any form of health insurance.  Dr. Scott Morris is a national treasure for what he has created in Memphis, and his ideas are being implemented all over the country.  Yes, the creative ideas of Danny Thomas and Dr. Scott Morris that have indeed made huge impacts on the world.  And those ideas were born right here in Memphis.   

This week I had the opportunity to explore yet another highly rated health service facility: The Hamilton Eye Institute, a division of UT Health Science Center, on Madison Avenue.  WOW!  Eye-care is at its finest within those walls, and it has 7 clinics located throughout the immediate region.  It is ranked in the top 10 nationally  for various and numerous services. 

Don't worry: my eyes had a good report!  But my recent visit to my new Ophthalmologist, Dr. James C. Flemming, just reminded me how lucky we are to have such great medical care available to us.  Healthcare is one more area where our community’s many great strengths and positive contributions have truly made an International impact.  We really need to take pride in what Memphis means to healthcare.  We are right up there with the country's leading institutions when it comes to this important part of who we are.

Pat Halloran
Orpheum President and CEO  


Monday, July 15, 2013

Now Showing: The Orpheum Theatre, or Should I Say MALCO?

The Orpheum’s annual Summer Movie Series gives us the opportunity to revisit the glory days of the classic movie palaces of old, which was the original purpose for the Orpheum when it was rebuilt in 1928: to be a palatial venue for movies and Vaudeville.  At that time movies were silent and colorless but, as technology advanced, movies quickly grew into one of America's most popular forms of entertainment.

In those days there was no television, no iPads, iPods, or iPhones, and the word "Apple" only referred to the fruit that caused Adam and Eve to get the boot.

In 1940 M.A. Lightman bought the Orpheum for $75,000, a price that would not even cover this year's utility bill.  The theatre's name was changed to MALCO, and it became the company's flagship headquarters amidst its chain of theatres throughout the region.  
For the next 35 years the Orpheum was the place to go to see first run movies.  But that all changed  when multiplex theatre operations moved out to the suburbs.  I blame Adam and Eve for that as well.

In 1983 the old “Grande Dame” was given a much needed facelift to accommodate Broadway, Concerts, Opera, and Ballet.  These new  productions may have moved the movie business to the backburner, but we never forgot our roots, and we continue to show movies every summer out of respect for our place in Memphis movie history.

It's a real thrill to come to the Orpheum and get a box of popcorn, a soft drink - or a cocktail - and see GONE WITH THE WIND on the big screen, as it was intended.  People often ask me why we always show GONE WITH THE WIND, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, and other annual classics.  I guess it’s just because some things - no matter how old - will never die.  Yes, we always throw shows like THE BIG LEBOWSKI, ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, and HARRY POTTER into the mix for those looking for something more modern, and in many ways these movies are classics in their own right.   

For a couple of hours on a Thursday or Friday night, it is fun to sit back with your Milk Duds and popcorn and experience what our parents and grandparents felt when they visited the MALCO that is now the majestic Orpheum Theatre - back when life was less complicated.
Pat Halloran
Orpheum President and CEO

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Business of Broadway

I am often asked why the Orpheum (actually the Theatre’s parent company, the Memphis Development Foundation) invests in Broadway shows.  Well, there are many reasons, but it starts with the industry itself.  When Broadway shows became more sophisticated, they also became more expensive, and the industry needed outside investors.  

This was prompted by the increasing cost of putting a show in a Broadway theatre after it was written, designed, choreographed, and cast, in addition to the cost of marketing the show.  This is just to get the show off the ground.  It then has to be funded for the first 6 months of production or at least until ticket sales can carry the burden of keeping the show operational.

A full-scale musical in New York can cost as much as $18 million on the front end, and non-musical plays will usually cost less than half of that at $6 to $7 million.  New York is a very expensive place to produce and present a show.  First there is the high cost of renting one of the theatres, and then there are the personnel costs of hiring union employees: musicians, actors, stagehands, hairdressers, wardrobe, ushers, and a myriad of other people that are needed to stage 8 shows per week.  As you can imagine, this adds up quickly. 
By investing, we stay “in the know” as to what the show needs to breakeven.  Of course there is always the hope that the show will be successful and make a profit, but that isn't always the case.  Only about 30% of all productions turn a profit, leaving 70% to experience a full or partial loss.  For example, the recent Broadway production of JEKYLL & HYDE closed soon after it opened, and its investors lost 100% of their contributions.  In case you were concerned, no, the Orpheum did not invest in JEKYLL & HYDE.

Most recently, the Orpheum invested a small amount of $25,000 in this year’s Tony Award winning musical KINKY BOOTS.  This show not only won 4 Tony's, but it's grossing a very impressive average of $1.5 million a week.  To put this in perspective, our last major Tony Award winning investment, MEMPHIS, took 12 months to break even and three years to turn a small profit of just over 12% on our investment.  KINKY looks like a home run, and I'm certain this show will be on Broadway for years.

These investments give the Orpheum the inside scoop on where the money goes, but equally important are the more practical reasons we invest: 
1.  We want to support our industry and encourage new products that will eventually tour to the Orpheum Theatre. 
2.  When the show begins its national tour, we - as an investor - usually receive consideration as to when the show will be presented in our theatre, allowing hit shows to come to the Orpheum early on in the tour.  This of course depends largely on the tour's route since the cost of transporting the set, the actors, and the production staff from one city to another has to make sense with the tour schedule.
3.  When I negotiate deals with production companies, knowing the expenses enhances my negotiating position on what we will pay to bring the show to Memphis, and this advantage has a positive effect on our bottom line.  During my 33 year tenure, the Orpheum has been unusually successful in realizing a profit in probably 95% or better on the shows we have booked.  In 2012 we only lost money on one show, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, and even then it wasn't a significant loss.
Outside of the Orpheum, I personally get the opportunity to invest is shows.  The first show I invested in was the national tour of SUNSET BOULEVARD back in the 1990s.  I invested $10,000 and made a profit of a whopping $845 after four years.  Not a home run like KINKY, but it was a great learning experience, and I was hooked.
I recently joined in with the Orpheum in investing in FIRST DATE, which will open on Broadway August 8th.  This musical comedy is being produced and managed by our MEMPHIS production partners.  It's great to be working with them again, further cementing our relationship with this first class production team.  I invite you to monitor the success of this new show and see for yourself how well we do.  I always say “we” when I’m holding my breath and crossing my fingers... and my eyes.
Pat Halloran
Orpheum President and CEO