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Exploris Officials Admit Struggle To Boost Attendance

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Of all the cultures


explores, getting a handle on exactly what the American museumgoer wants has been its biggest challenge.

"My experience with Exploris is I made one good pass through here and I felt like I didn't need to come back," Exploris visitor Dick Hellings said.

"We have stepped back to take a breath and to make sure that we really are on solid footing," Exploris president Anne Bryan said.

Despite a slumping economy and past years in the red, Bryan expects the downtown Raleigh museum will break even for the fiscal year that ends in June. Officials say one big reason for the turnaround is the IMAX theatre. In the coming fiscal year, the museum estimates the big screen attraction will generate close to $1.2 million in revenue, which is nearly 4 times what Exploris expects to produce.

When asked whether the museum has become too dependent on IMAX's success, Bryan responded by saying, 'Not at all.'" Bryan said while Exploris hopes to increase its attendance, museum leaders always expected IMAX to be a bigger draw.

The museum also relies heavily on Wake County's annual $2.1 million contribution. Some government leaders want Exploris weaned off that money, but Bryan claims, like most museum, they need tax dollars to survive.

Exploris hopes to attract more paying customers with new exhibits like the culture studio and special programs.

"It's really fun. It's a great place to learn things and there's a lot of interactive activities," Exploris visitor T.J. Whitehead said.

Exploris dodged financial disaster this week when Wake County commissioners considered cutting $1 million from the Raleigh museum's budget, but a property tax hike saved the bottom line.

More than $2 million -- about a third of Exploris' total budget -- comes from Wake County tax money, which is more than any other non-departmental agency.


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