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Show Me the Money!

Is Jerry Maguire outdated reference? Probably. 1996 was 25 years ago when the Nintendo 64 was the hottest new gaming system and a two-bedroom apartment in Somerville was $850/month. Ah, time, devourer of all things.

Anyway, one thing we're excited about as we get started is that we're in a position where we can pay performers right out of the gate. This was always a goal of ours, but the up-front and overhead costs for our new space aren't quite as substantial as we had expected, so we can institute a standardized door split much sooner than we had planned. It's important for us to be transparent about these sorts of things, so here are the details...

Our current programming schedule includes opportunities for indie teams on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays - a total of 9 spots:

Thursday @ 8 = 20 Min + Jam

Friday @ 8 = 15 Min + 15 Min + 20 Min

Friday @ 10 = 25 Min + 25 Min

Saturday @ 6 = 20 Min + Jam

Saturday @ 8 = 25 Min + 25 Min

Being paired with a Jam means tickets for the Thursday @ 8 and Saturday @ 6 shows will be free, and as such there is no door split for this show. We believe that providing this type of stage access is a necessity and thus have built room into our budget to ensure that these shows can operate at a loss.

Tickets for Friday @ 8 will be $10. Each 15 minute slot will get 5% of the door, and the 20 minute slot will get 7%, for a total of 17%, up to $68 per show (we're planning for 40 seats). Tickets for Friday @ 10 and Saturday @ 8 will be $13, with each 25 minute slot getting 10% for 20% total, up to $104 per show. With these numbers, if we sold out every show for a month we'd be paying indie teams over $1,100, an average rate of $86/hr.

Depending on your perspective, this may or may not seem like enough. On one hand, historically, indie teams in Boston have rarely been paid for stage time on shows they didn't produce themselves, so any amount is an improvement over the norm. On the other hand, in the best case scenario laid out here the theater is still taking 80% of the cut. For those holding this perspective, we'd like to provide some context (and more numbers).

Our current budget estimates that our baseline operating expenses will be around $3,300/month:

  • Rent - $2,300

  • Marketing - $400

  • Utilities - $180

  • Insurance - $175

  • HR retainer - $150

  • C̶a̶n̶d̶l̶e̶s̶ ̶-̶ ̶$̶3̶,̶6̶0̶0̶

  • Software - $100

This number does not include labor - paying staff, producers, and instructors is all extra and increases with additional classes and shows. Nor does it include the miscellaneous, varying, and unpredictable expenses such as ticket processing fees, city and state administrative filing fees and taxes, and essentials like toilet paper and soap. It doesn't include the up-front costs of equipment, some of which we'll need immediately (like $2,500 for chairs, basic tech, and box office), and others we'll need eventually (like $1,800 for coolers and signage). It doesn't include the cost of liquor and entertainment licenses ($6,000 up-front and $3,750 annually). Lastly, it doesn't include the fact that theater admin have been and will continue to work unpaid until our finances are stable enough to afford additional wages or salaries.

While we will continually reasses our financial situation with an eye toward implementing larger door splits, it is not beyond our awareness that 20% of businesses fail in their first year, and only 50% survive the first five, with the second-leading cause of failure being insufficient cash flow. The magic number for Union Comedy is 40% - if we can average 16 sales per show we should be able to survive. If we can consistently do better, we'll be able to grow in a way that benefits everyone involved. This programming plan is a first step; as we build momentum and financial stability we hope to be able to create more consistent and high quality performance opportunities with larger payouts.

We wouldn't be here after all we've been through if we didn't still believe we could be successful, but we will need your help. Please attend and help us promote our classes and shows. Please support local improv as we work to rebuild stronger than ever.

Questions/comments? Email


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