LSU loses money on Edwards interview

LSU’s Student Union Theater lost more than $45,000 recently when the pairing of former Gov. Edwin Edwards with retired broadcaster Larry King for an onstage interview didn’t draw enough interest to cover expenses.

LSU Student Union Theater Director Michael Derr refused Wednesday to go into detail about how well tickets for other shows sell or how often the venue typically sells out. “We put on a whole series of shows and we subsidize every one of them,” Derr said before referring all other questions to LSU’s public relations team.

LSU put out a statement late Wednesday as a reminder that no public funds were used to bring King and Edwards to campus.

Union Theater performances are paid for through student fees and ticket sales.

“Through comprehensive marketing efforts to sell tickets and active solicitation of donor funds, we strive to have each performance be self-sufficient,” the statement read.

LSU sold 532 tickets and handed out 146 complementary tickets for a venue that holds more than 1,200 people.

LSU paid King $66,400 and provided him with a hotel suite for two nights at $300 per night. The university paid Edwards $6,000 for his appearance.

Additionally, the Sept. 9 event was “offered free of charge to LSU students since the opportunity to hear from King and Edwards was one of learning and enhancement that students may not have otherwise had access to. Nearly 100 students took advantage of the free offer and attended the show,” the statement said.

LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard added that the university is not looking to turn a profit by putting on different programs.

Ballard said the theater holds more than 100 events per year, nine of which are part of the “Union Theater Presents” series. Attendance varies at the show, he said, with performances by Anjelah Johnson, Colin & Brad and “Swan Lake” selling out last year.

Some of the smaller shows, Ballard said, draw audiences of only a few hundred. Overall, the theater’s average attendance is 487 attendees.

Despite not filling the venue, King, Edwards and his biographer, Leo Honeycutt, drew a standing ovation at the beginning of the event with several more rounds of applause throughout the evening as the former governor quipped on his wife’s attractiveness, his political philosophy and his time in federal prison.