Kennedy Center’s Comedy Monopoly No Laughing Matter

When a business has its rent and expenses paid by taxpayers, it doesn’t bode well for competitors.

Arlington Cinema ‘N’ Drafthouse in northern Virginia has been providing the Washington, D.C. area with low-priced movies and stand-up comic acts for over three decades. But thanks to the nearby John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which receives federal money, the future of this small business is in jeopardy.

The Kennedy Center was initially founded for performances that encompassed theater, ballet and orchestra, but it has recently expanded its offerings to include stand-up comics. Because it is underwritten by the federal government, the Kennedy Center is able to overpay these performers and poach them from local venues like Arlington Cinema ‘N’ Drafthouse. Drafthouse owner Greg Godbout told the Washington Post that Second City canceled 17 shows at the Drafthouse in favor of scheduling a different show at the Kennedy Center.

“In these cases they aren’t offering increased DC area performances, but instead moving comics (and revenue) from one healthy private market to their publicly funded venue,” Godbout noted in a recent email. He also complained to the  Post that, “They [the Kenned Center] feel completely entitled to the marketplace. I’m being bullied. They are incredibly aggressive.”

Godbout says that the Kennedy Center’s unfair advantage has cost his business at least $150,000 in revenue this year.

While the Kennedy Center gets to use its facilities rent-free and has many of its expenses paid for by the government, it gets to keep all its profits. Think that’s unfair? Tell your lawmakers to support competition, not corporate welfare. 

Author Generation Opportunity

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