The Pageant of the Masters is the picture of profitability.
Bolstered by a 75th anniversary celebration, Laguna Beach’s Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters took in $8.9 million in revenue during its 2007 run, up from $8.3 million in 2006. That’s according to unaudited figures reported at the annual membership meeting last month.
Laguna Beach is a magnet for art lovers and tops a list of 156 cities nationwide for the amount of money visitors and residents spend on hotels, restaurants and souvenirs while in town for festivals and art shows, according to a study released earlier this year by Americans for the Arts, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that promotes the arts.
Pageant of the Masters can take credit for part of that designation, drawing people from all over Southern California to the artsy seaside town to see live models recreate works of art on stage.
Board member and former city councilman Wayne Baglin said the Pageant of Masters, which runs July and August, sold out every night, with a total of roughly 150,000 people attending. About 200,000 people visited the festival grounds and exhibits, with gate receipts up from 2006.
“It’s bigger than Laguna Beach,” Mayor Toni Iseman said.
The Festival of Arts was started in 1932 by struggling local artists hoping to lure tourists from the Los Angeles Olympics to Laguna Beach. The next year, artist and vaudevillian Lolita Perine added living pictures to the mix. In its early years, the Pageant consisted of three programs to entice visitors to stay in town longer and attend more than one performance.
The Festival of Arts became a nonprofit corporation in 1934 and now counts more than 3,000 members. It reported total assets of $7.2 million and net assets of $6 million in 2007.
With the growing program comes growing expenses.
Expenditures for the 12 months ended Sept. 30 included $478,000 in capital improvements, up from $366,071 in the prior year. In 2007, those improvements included work on the water system, new awnings and upgraded seating in the Irvine Bowl.
The festival board is working with consultants on a site evaluation to determine the need for future upgrades, according to Treasurer Fred Sattler.
“We’ll need about $10 million in the near future to upgrade the grounds,” he said.
2007 upgrades that didn’t cost the festival any money included turning the property into a non-smoking venue and a long-awaited traffic signal near the entrance to the grounds.
The 2007 financial performance bodes well for 2008, when the Pageant of the Masters officially turns 75. Anniversary programs for the Diamond Jubilee celebration,which was started in the 2007 season,again will include the diamond club package for $7,500 that sold out this year.
Sales are capped at 75 packages, which include 16 pageant tickets, dinner, a preshow tour of the exhibits, post-performance discussion with 13-year show director Diane Challis Davy, commemorative items and gift shop discounts.
The theme for the 2008 Pageant of the Masters is “All the World’s a Stage.”
Challis Davy said the program will focus on the lives and legends of actors, singers, dancers and other performers as depicted in the works of artists from around the world. It will aim to compare and contrast the way art has been reinvented worldwide through the ages, including today’s multimedia world of entertainment.
In a nod to the 75th anniversary, the program also will include a brief history of the living pictures format that makes the pageant unique. Tickets go on sale to the public on Dec. 1.
Laguna’s other two art festivals: Art-A-Fair and Sawdust,are both outgrowths of the Festival of Arts. Art-A-Fair launched a Venetian theme this year that helped them boost attendance by about 6%, according to spokeswoman Rebecca Meekstra. The Sawdust Festival reported flat attendance for 2007.
Both of those festivals, which also are nonprofits, have their own boards of directors separate from the Festival of the Arts. The Sawdust Festival’s board members are chosen from exhibiting artists in each year’s festival.
One-third of the Festival of Art’s nine-member board is up for election each year. The 2007 call for candidates netted only three submissions,incumbents David Perry, Sattler and Ann Webster.
Election chairman Jim McBride said that was a first for the organization, where the positions are normally sought after.
According to the group’s bylaws, no ballot is required if there are only three candidates, McBride said.
“That saved us tons of money,” 2007 festival President Anita Mangels joked.
2008 officers include Baglin, president; Perry, vice president, Pat Kollenda, secretary; and Sattler, treasurer. Mangels has two years remaining in her current term on the board.