How the SXSW Cancellation Has Impacted the Hideout Theatre
Comedy theatre mulls the corporate cash influx and concession sales that went away
It takes money, they say, to make money. But it also takes money to just survive.
One of the ways via which local clubs and other venues historically make a sweet fuckton of money during SXSW is they rent their place out to someone else, some much larger corporation, during one or two weeks of the festival. They rent their space out, often for more than they would've reaped from business-as-usual. And then they'll be able to make it through the much leaner rest of the year, too.
This is an especially fraught thing in the heart of Downtown, where a place like the Hideout Theatre typically turns its two comedy stages over to the paying likes of Comedy Central and other deep-pocketed businesses, and reaps extra rewards from a high number of customers ordering from the coffee house.
"The coffee house is always open and will be, as usual," says Hideout general manager Kareem Badr. "We always cancel our improv shows during the festival, because our assumption has been that no one wants to fight the crowds to get to us. But as we've literally never been open during a spring break that didn't also have South By, we don't know the impact. We're going to lose around 30% of our typical March sales that South By brings in. If you want to know real numbers, it'll be in the $15-20 thousand range. And for an arts business like ours, that exists by being scrappy, that's quite a lot."
But not impossible to recover from?
"Yeah," says Badr, "we'll weather it as we've done with other kinks in our circumstances – like that two-year hotel construction. We may have to go into our line of credit to keep things going comfortably."
"Shakeups are not usually gentle and kind," says Jessica Arjet, the Hideout's director of youth programs. "But somehow people continue."
"We may add back our own improv programming for the next couple of weeks," says Badr, "if we see that this past weekend's audience numbers weren't so bad. However, if fears of the virus continue and further affect sales – coffee house and theatre – we don't know what will happen."
"It's uncertain, for sure," says artistic director Roy Janik. "I do like that the messaging from the city and supportive people right now is, Go out and indulge! Drink, eat out! Live lavishly!"
"Until someone coughs," notes Badr, frowning.