What Happened to the Tianjin Grand Theatre

 

 

Article by Huizhong Wu (left) and Yufan Zheng (right). Huizhong is a first-year student in the MAAA at SPEA. Yufan is a second-year student in the MAAA-MPA program at SPEA and currently works as the International Student Services Graduate Assistant for the MAAA program. 
事件背景:

天津大剧院于2012年建成并投入使用,总造价为15.33亿元人民币。天津市政府与北京驱动文化传媒公司签订了五年合约,将剧院运营权交给驱动。北京驱动文化传媒公司是一家演出经纪公司,其法定代表人为钱程,运营着哈尔滨大剧院,天津音乐厅,徐州音乐厅等演出场所。而在今年举行的第二期委托运营招标中,原运营商驱动传媒并未中标。在其经营五年后,天津大剧院将被转手给中标方北京保利剧院管理公司运营。北京保利剧院管理公司是中国保利集团下属子公司之一,旗下有4个子公司,54家剧院,遍布全国46座城市.

Background:

Tianjin, or Tientsin, is a “metropolis in northern coastal Mainland China and one of the four national central cities of the country”. Tianjin Grand Theater costs 1.533 billion RMB ($230million ) to build and was completed and put into use in 2012. Tianjin government then held a bidding to contract out Tianjin Grand Theater. Qudong Culture Communication Co.Ltd won the bid and got 5-year rights to manage this theater. Besides Tianjin Grand Theater, it also runs Haerbin Grand Theater and Tianjin Music Hall. Cheng Qian is the CEO of this company.  However, in this year’s second bidding, Qudong didn’t win. Tianjin Grand Theater will be run by another company – Poly Theatre Management Co.Ltd for the next 5 years.

Tianjin Grand Theatre:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tianjin_Grand_Theatre

Poly Theatre Management Co., Ltd.:
http://en.polyculture.com.cn/business/&c=17&i=36&comContentId=36.html\

Related reading:

Grand Ambitions for Tianjin’s Grand Theater
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/arts/01iht-tianjin01.html

 

Huizhong:
我认为,在选剧上,天津大剧院选的戏水准很高、种类很多,甚至有些时候稍显“曲高和寡”。如果天津大剧院坐落在北京,我认为驱动这样的发展模式还有可能支撑下去,毕竟北京的观众基础很好,但问题它是在天津这样一个紧邻北京却可以说是“演出荒漠”的城市,2013年《托斯卡》在天津大剧院的上演才打破了天津35年来没有歌剧演出的纪录, 观众基础十分薄弱,培育观众需要时间。

In my opinion, Tianjin Grand Theater sticks to top-notch performances of various genres, yet sometimes, it gives people the impression that certain plays are only there to serve a minority of audience or a certain group of them. If the Theater were in Beijing, it might sustain with the current development model. After all, Beijing has a more established audience base. The problem is, the theater is located in Tianjin, a city close to Beijing yet it can be more or less called a “performing art desert”. The production of Tosca in 2013 was the first opera performed in Tianjin since 1978. With a weak audience base, it takes time for Tianjin to engage more audience.

再看天津大剧院的定位,“跟世界艺术的最新发展成果同步”、让大剧院成为戏剧爱好者看世界的窗口,而大剧院第二期的运营计划,则提到了“成为中国的林肯中心、大都会歌剧院,为天津打造与阿维尼翁戏剧节、爱丁堡艺术节齐名的高雅艺术之城”,这些话听起来激动人心,让人感受到运营者的戏剧情怀,但是实际情况却不容乐观。举一个例子,2016年5月初,在天津大剧院开始运营的第四年,60%到70%来看立陶宛国家剧院《英雄广场》的观众都来自外地,这就意味着本地观众占比较低。外地观众大量涌入的背后,除了有天津大剧院独家引进剧目的原因,还因为天津市政府从2013年起每年拿出1500万元作为“文化高端项目”补贴,让观众直接享受到实在的优惠

Now let’s take a look at the positioning of Tianjin Grand Theater: “To keep pace with the latest trend of world art”, and let the Grand Theater be a window connecting the theater lovers with the world[1]. In its operation plan for the second term, the aspiration is to “become China’s Lincoln Center and Metropolitan Opera and to make Tianjin a city of high art like Avignon and Edinburgh” is mentioned. All of the above sounds exciting and is filled with the operator’s genuine love for theater, and yet the reality is not that optimistic. For example, in May 2016, 60 to 70% of the audience that watched the Lithuanian play Heldenplatz were out-of-towners, meaning that there was not enough local audience. There are mainly two reasons that attract out-of-towners to the Theater: The first is that many performances are only available in Tianjin Grand Theater; The second is that since 2013, the Tianjin Municipal Government would provide 15 million RMB annually to subsidize arts and cultural programs as means to directly give the audience discounts for tickets.

如果说过去五年的天津大剧院是高端买手店,保利就是连锁店,两者运营模式很不一样。在保利接手后,最令人担心的问题应该就是院线制经营的保利剧院会给天津大剧院安排与之前独家引进相比同质化的剧目,一旦外地观众特别是北京观众发现天津大剧院的戏北京都有,很有可能就不会专程跑到天津看戏,外地观众的流失也会对剧院经营产生不小的影响。据腾讯娱乐对一位时常从北京去天津大剧院看戏的普通观众的采访,“在曹禺戏剧节、林兆华邀请展之类的重大活动时,天津大剧院上座率可以保证,但在这些日子之外,主厅都观众寥寥,更不用说其他厅了”(独家调查:天津大剧院经营权争议 艺术梦碎只因100万差价?)。此外,作为一家私营公司主导运营的剧场,天津大剧院要想发展成林肯中心、大都会歌剧院这样的机构,可能会有一些困难,因为这两个美国的演出中心是非营利机构,整个的筹资体系、运营模式和天津大剧院都很不相同。

If the operator of Tianjin Grand Theater has been running it as a high-end boutique over the past 5 years, then Poly Group will make it one of its chain stores. The two operators have vastly different models. Now that Poly Group has won the bid, the biggest concern now is whether Poly, a theater chain company, will bring more homogenous performances to the Theater than its predecessor. Once non-local audiences, especially those from Beijing realize that they can watch the same performances in their home cities, they will not bother coming to Tianjin. The loss of non-local audience is going to have a significant impact on the Theater. According to an interview with an audience member from Beijing, “During major events such as Cao Yu International Festival and Lin Zhaohua Theater Arts Festival, the seats can be filled. However, when there are no festivals, few people come to the main theater, not to mention other smaller ones.” Furthermore, as a theater run by a private enterprise, it might be difficult for Tianjin Grand Theater to develop into an organization like Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Opera. That’s because the two American performing arts centers are non-profit organizations, and their funding mechanism and operation model is quite different from that of Tianjin Grand Theater.

天津大剧院的悲剧是理想主义者的悲剧,运营者确实很讲情怀,他也真的想要给天津乃至中国的戏剧市场带来新风,想要用高水平演出惠民,用社会效益带动经济效益,但是现在这样的模式只能是“用爱发电”,长久下去是行不通的。

The tragedy of Tianjin Grand Theater is the tragedy of idealists. The operator does love the theater very much and he really wants to bring something fresh and different to the theater world in Tianjin and China at large. He plans to serve the public with outstanding performances and generate economic benefits through social benefits. However, the current model is only throwing money away in the name of love and it won’t work in the long run.

Yufan:
不可否认,天津大剧院是一家有情怀的剧院。但是戏剧,歌剧或交响乐这种较小众的艺术形式,全靠票房收入自负盈亏是很困难的。美国非营利艺术组织的收入中只有40.7%来自自营收入,其余部分全靠赞助和捐款支撑。驱动经营天津大剧院5年,几乎一直在亏损,甚至在天津政府的大力支持下也还是入不敷出。这种以营利性公司的运营模式,尝试实现非营利性公司“mission”的模式,值得敬佩,却也需要批判。

Admittedly, Tianjin Grand Theater is an ambitious theater, however, it is almost impossible for this performing arts organization to operate only from the box-office revenue. They usually cannot be responsible for their own profit and loss. In the past 5 years, even with the Tianjin government’s strong support, Tianjin Grand Theatre still had deficits under Qudong’s management. It is admirable that Qudong, as a for-profit company, tried to fulfill the mission that was supposed to be taken care by nonprofit organizations, but it also needs to be criticized.

剧院管理者,或者说“艺管人”的工作,是在追求艺术水准和赢利这两者间找平衡。驱动在前一方面做的很好,但是后一方面难免有所不足。钱程在这些年所接的剧目大部分都有不错的艺术水准,其运营目标也是成为国内首屈一指的高端演绎场所。这一理念充满了理想与斗志,可惜现实很残酷。其演出上座率并不理想,而一些上座率可观的作品,其中很多观众是来自北京的戏剧迷而非天津本地人。要知道,天津大剧院耗资15亿人民币建造,每年接受超过1000万元的政府补贴。这些补贴直接反映在票价上,大部分观众支付的票价仅为本应收取票价的50%。在这样的情况下,天津大剧院还是很难达到收支平衡,那么新一年的政府招标,驱动没有中标也不奇怪了。

It is the arts administrator’s job to balance artistic choices and making a profit. Qudong did well in the former part, but had some insufficiency in the latter part. Most of the programs that Cheng Qian, the CEO of Qudong, presented in these years had high artistic value, and the goal of Tianjin Grand Theater was also to be the leading performing arts venue in China. This goal is full of ambitions, but not realistic. Generally, the performances in Tianjin Grand Theater didn’t have high attendance, and many of the audience are theatergoers from Beijing rather than Tianjin. In addition, it’s important to know that Tianjin Grand Theater cost 1.5 billion yuan (230 million dollars) to build, and each year it received more than 10 million yuan (1.5 million dollars) from the government. These subsidies were directly reflected in the ticket price, so most audiences only pay 50% of the “original price”. However, under such circumstances, Tianjin Grand Theater still faced deficits. As the result, it is not surprising that Qudong didn’t win in the government’s bidding this year.

天津大剧院演出上座率不高的重要原因之一是,驱动所选择的剧目与大部分天津市民的需求不甚相符。高雅艺术固然好,但是譬如俄罗斯歌剧《战争与和平》,舞剧《安娜·卡列尼娜》,和一些交响乐团等演出,在政府补贴票价的情况下,依然无法吸引到很多观众。天津大剧院所呈现的艺术和天津市民的欣赏标准是不相符的。这就引发了另一个问题的问题的探讨,作为一个当地政府建造,大力资助,并旨在服务当地居民的演出场所,这种一味追求高雅艺术而不顾市民需求的行为是否可取?

One of the important reasons that Tianjin Grand Theater had low attendance was that its programming does not quite match the demand of Tianjin citizens. Most of them don’t appreciate such kind of western arts. However, this venue was built and supported by the Tianjin government to serve local residents. Therefore, is it acceptable that Tianjin Grand Theater focuses only on pursuing high Western art rather than the local residents’ interests?

假设这是一个非营利机构,天津大剧院显然没有做到服务其所在社区;而现实上作为一个赢利性机构,它的抉择又不符合利润最大化原则。反观保利, 在2016年,其“演出量达到了6800场,接待观众突破750万人次”。保利拥有更为完善的运营模式,其全国各地的54所剧院所呈现的剧目也许不是最高端的,却的确更受广大民众的欢迎。而且针对不同的消费群体和地域文化,保利也对演出剧目做出了调整,比如上海东方艺术中心会呈现更多更高水准的艺术作品。总体来讲,保利剧院对于丰富老百姓文化生活,推动全国艺术产业发展起到了不可忽视的作用。前两年甚至还掀起了学习保利剧院经营模式的浪潮。所以由保利接手天津大剧院的运营权未必是一件坏事。

Assuming that this is a non-profit organization, the Tianjin Grand Theater has failed to serve its community. However, as a for-profit company, it also failed to maximize its profit. In contrast, Poly presented 6800 performances in 2016, and the attendance exceeded 7.5 million people. Obviously, Poly has a more complete operation model. The shows presented by its 54 theaters across the country may not have the highest quality, but they are more popular. In addition, Poly also adjusted its programs for different consumer groups and places, in order to fit in different local culture. Generally speaking, it is undeniable that Poly has played an important role in enriching people’s cultural life and encouraging the development of arts industry in China. Therefore, it is not necessarily a bad thing that Tianjin Grand Theater will be run by Poly the next year.

钱程也许会是一个不错艺术总监,却不是一个很好的CEO。他这种“紧衣缩食”也要支持文化产业的精神对于个体来讲也许是好的,但对于整个行业来说却弊大于利。艺术行业的长期发展,需要循序渐进地培养观众审美,传播艺术的价值与意义,进而号召更多人一起投资一起捐款。鼓励一家营利性公司在入不敷出的情况下,依靠政府资助引进不被广大民众欣赏的艺术作品,并不是最佳发展方案。就仿如一个孩童,在没学会走的情况下就开始跑,怎能不摔倒呢?而在非营利性组织尚未在我国发展成型的情况下,转手给运营模式更良好更稳定的其他剧院管理企业,未尝不是一件好事。毕竟,我国的文化产业近几年才开始快速发展,但在政府的大力支持,及各家运营公司的不断的探索和试验中,我相信最终会产生一个最合适的运营模式。

Cheng Qian might be a good artistic director, but not a great CEO. His spirit of self-sacrifice — using his own money to maintain the operation of the theater –might be worth for one organization, but will do more harm than good to the entire industry.  In the long-term, the development of the arts industry requires the cultivation for the audience about the value and significance of the arts, which will eventually get more people to care about and donate in the arts. Encouraging for-profit companies that rely on government funding to present performances that are not widely appreciated by the public is not the best development model. However, while non-profit organizations just started emerging in China, it is reasonable to let a well-developed company operate the theaters. All in all, with the strong support of the government and the constant experimental operation model and organization structure that conducted by various companies, I believe it will eventually yield the best way to promote and present arts in China.

任重道远,诸君加油。

Link to the original article post on WeChat:
https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/Anzs76TEF4TpFtR_3kFn9A

 

 

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