Culture is future » Financing and economic models

05.21.2015

3 questions to... Laurence Marchand, Théâtre du Châtelet

Interview with Laurence Marchand, Director of production and artistic coordination, Théâtre du Châtelet.

Popular success and artistic recognition, does the Théâtre du Châtelet have a secret to explain the dynamism of its production?

For ten years, the Théâtre du Châtelet, under the management of Jean-Luc Choplin, has managed to reinvent an innovative artistic policy, accepting a popular and sophisticated positioning, while renovating its economic model: a 30 million euros budget funded to 40% by its own resources and to 60% by a grant by the City of Paris amounting to 17 million euros.

On which levers did its economic model innovate?

To face a more and more constrained budget (the grant of the City is declining since 2013), the Théâtre du Châtelet has managed to renew its model thanks to public-private partnerships, while making of its public service mission a priority and working – or even innovating – in various directions:

  • Optimization of artistic resources, particularly through the programming of longer series optimizing the stage costs and making it possible to raise the number of performances: +25% in ten years.
  • Reinforcement of the relationship with private companies (especially via space rent) : + 30% in ten years
  • Development of international co-productions (the Mariinsky Theater of Saint-Petersburg- Los Angeles Opera - English National Opera - Teatro alla Scala…)
  • Development of a pro-active audiovisual policy on the cutting edges of new technologies and digital arts (3D experience for Poppea) that is a success both on traditional media (France Télévisions, Mezzo) and digital platforms  such as Culturebox, Arteconcert, Mezzo Live (audience record on Culturebox with more than 120 000 views for Einstein on the Beach in 2014).
  • Establishment of a “yield management” policy and of active marketing on social networks for ticketing : +30% in ten years
  • Valorization of its “made in Châtelet” expertises, An American in Paris being the perfect example.

How does the production of “An American in Paris” created under Christopher Wheeldon’s direction and undisputable success of the 2014/2015 season (with 12 Tony Awards nominations) fit into this new economic dynamic?

By taking up the challenge to invest twice more than for its usual productions, and by teaming up with private partners, the Théâtre du Châtelet gave itself the means to create a show consistent with its ambitions: with An American in Paris, it managed to find the right balance between the distribution of the production incompressible costs and the public’s expectations, remaining loyal to its ambition and eclectic programming.

On the one hand, the costs and the risks of a total budget of 11.5 million euros are shared between the Théâtre du Châtelet and an American private producer:

  • The Théâtre du Châtelet invested 4.5 million euros of its budget for the creation of costumes and sets, the accessories, the artists’ fees and expenses and other artistic expenses during the rehearsals of the creation of the show in Paris. Beyond this sum, the American producer wished an association with the Théâtre du Châtelet in order to benefit from the ‘made in Châtelet’s expertise and of that of its permanent teams regarding production and creation. It is on this basis that the Théâtre du Châtelet was able to give back to the greatest classic musicals the artistic dimension they deserved by giving them a treatment as rigorous and inventive as for the operas presented within this theater.
  • Elephant Theatrical Eye (an American private production structure) and the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (a non-profit American Theater mainly funded by private donations) made an input of 7 million euros corresponding to the funding of the first two workshops, to the musical arrangement order, to the staffing of the artistic team and to the installation of the show at the Palace Theatre of Broadway.

On the other hand, the sharing of the revenues on the show exploitation – the 40 performances at the Théâtre du Châtelet were sold out and raised 4 million euros of ticketing revenues – makes it possible to maximize the return on investment: the Théâtre du Châtelet has a resale right on the revenues of the show in Broadway and on tour in the United States, being an estimated gain of 9000$ a week and an annual return on royalties on this base of 500 000 euros. Thus, the Théâtre du Châtelet made sure to reach its budget balance, or even to increase its own resources and to be able to reinvest them into new productions.

It is however very important to note that the Théâtre du Châtelet’s ability to invent and produce is only possible via the funding by the City of Paris of its permanent teams and its fully operational theater.

About Laurence Marchand:

At 17 years old Laurence Marchand made her debut at the Early Music Festival of Saintes, her hometown and decided to devote her professional life to music.

She began her career in 1990 inside the patronage department of the “Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations” for the creation of “Alliances Opéras” (network of French and international opera co-productions) and the National Orchestra of Ile-de-France.

In 1991 she became Administrator of La Chapelle Royale – Champs-Elysées Orchestra and the Early Music Festival of Saintes. She contributes to the influence of this training at regional, national and international level and at the conclusion of important sponsorship agreements (France Telecom Foundation, Hennessy ...).

Between 1995 and 1999, Laurence Marchand develops for the international artistic management agency IMG Artists of the Mac Cormack group, the productions of the Mariinsky Theatre / Valery Gergiev, John Eliot Gardiner, Sylvie Guillem, Yehudi Menuhin and other international symphony orchestras throughout of the world. In this Anglo-Saxon private group she acquires solid skills into management and optimization of the entertainment industry economy and a real openness to an international network.

In 1999, Laurence Marchand joined Jean-Pierre Brossmann as General Delegate of production at the Chatelet Theater. She relies on her international artistic and institutional network and her management skills from the world of private enterprise to creatively manage a lyrical, musical and choreographic program based on an extensive network of co-productions (Staatsoper Berlin Theatre Mariinsky Saint Petersburg, Bunkamura Tokyo ...) and launches a very dynamic audiovisual policy in a cost optimization context. She then serves productions involving artists such as Robert Wilson, Laurent Pelly, John Neumeier, Pina Bausch, Valery Gergiev, John Eliot Gardiner, Thomas Hampson, Karita Mattila, among others, and weave privileged links with them.

With Jean-Luc Choplin who is appointed in 2006, Laurence Marchand contributes as Production Director and Artistic Coordinator at the creation of a new programming concept “popular and sophisticated” opening the opera to other artistic universes: composers and contemporary arts, film, world cultures, digital arts, "rehabilitation" of the great classics of the musical. The Châtelet Theater wins the bet about increasing and renewing the audience. The co-production network is strengthened and open to new territories ( Teatro de la Scala, English National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Teatro Real in Madrid, Teatro Municipal de São Paulo, Bamako / creation of the Sahel Opera...).