Overture Center says its lost $12 million in revenue in 2020, now getting some relief

MADISON, Wis. – One of Downtown Madison’s most iconic entertainment venues says the coronavirus pandemic has cost it more than $12 million.

The Overture Center says because of this, its cut nearly three quarters of its original staff. In addition, they’re now operating at roughly one third of normal expenses, according to VP of Development Emily Gruenewald.

“We were lucky that we had reserves that are helping us to get through this time,” she said. “But again, as you put that timeframe further and further into 2021, it becomes more challenging to see how we’re going to make it back.”

Surprisingly, Gruenewald says the Overture Center was preparing for COVID restrictions months before they actually came, as early as January of 2020.

“We were evaluating what was happening locally and if it seemed like there would be a potential local threat,” she said. “There was a call in Switzerland that you couldn’t have any live gatherings on more than 1,000 people. We knew that was something other countries were doing to mitigate the spread. We knew that was something we had to prepare for.”

Despite this, in March, when Wisconsin’s Safer at Home Order was issued, the Overture Center was just hours away from opening the doors for a sold out performance of the musical Wicked.

“That day you have to make a call on a show was one of the hardest decisions that we had to make,” Gruenewald said.

On Thursday, Gruenewald learned the Overture Center was one of more than three dozen theatres and performing arts around the state getting a share of $15 million in relief, with the downtown Madison performing arts center getting $362,287.61

In addition, she says an online fundraising campaign with a goal of $1.5 million is now more than 90% complete.

“It’s not like any one of these things is going to be the one that’s going to save the industry or any one venue. It’s really a combination of cost saving, donations, digital programming and whatever you can do in that space to keep your company alive,” she said.

Gruenewald says pending the successful distribution of a Coronavirus vaccine, the Overture Center is hopeful they can return to life as normal by the fall of 2021.