Philadelphia Orchestra files bankruptcy papers

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The renowned Philadelphia Orchestra has officially filed for bankruptcy protection after falling victim to plunging ticket sales and soaring overheads, according to court papers.

The filing followed a vote announced Saturday by the board of directors who say the move will allow the orchestra to maintain operations while restructuring and seeking help.

According to the court papers filed over the weekend, the orchestra has suffered falling ticket sales over the last four years as concert goers age and younger people prove hard to attract.

Amid nationwide economic instability, the organization has also had to confront rapidly rising pension costs for employees. The symphony wants to pull out from those contracts, but estimates that it would cost $23 million to do so, according to the court papers.

For this year alone, the orchestra faces a $14.5 million deficit, about a third of its $46 million operating budget. Major donors likewise have withheld support from the organization until it can fix its finances.

Others orchestras have closed or sought bankruptcy protection during the US recession and weak recovery. But none have been as large or significant as the 111-year old Philadelphia Orchestra.

Many of the documents filed were aimed at keeping the organization functioning. The orchestra sought protection from utility companies from turning off the lights, and asked a judge for permission to keep paying salaries.

The orchestra promises to maintain its packed performance schedule and to modernize in a bid to attract new supporters.

Two related performing arts organizations, including the Philadelphia Academy of Music, also sought bankruptcy protection as part of the orchestra's filing.

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