The 50th presidential inauguration, with its expected $12 million price tag, will likely come out in the black -- even if officials must refund the entire $800,000 collected on tickets to the canceled inaugural parade, a spokesman said yesterday.
The four-day extravaganza, plagued by frigid weather and called-off events, apparently will come to a happy financial finale thanks to corporate America, inaugural ball-goers and a souvenir-hungry public.
Fourteen corporations, including AT & T and Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., bought commercial time at $300,000 a minute on the presidential gala produced by Frank Sinatra and televised last Saturday on ABC-TV. Also, at least 40,000 guests bought tickets to nine inaugural balls, most at $125 each, and the public already has gobbled up "well over $1 million" worth of inaugural memorabilia, according to committee officials.
"We have every indication we'll come out in the black," said John Buckley, a spokesman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. The parade-ticket refunds, which will be offered until Feb. 10, will "not seriously hurt us," he added.
Although final figures have not been tallied, the amount of money taken in on some items can be estimated, Buckley said.
For instance, the committee came away with $2.2 million from the sale of commercials on the television gala after paying ABC-TV $2 million to televise it, Buckley said.
Planners still must pay for producing the show, but the largest cost for such an event -- paying such entertainers as Sinatra, Tom Selleck and Rich Little -- will be almost nil for President Reagan's committee. The stars worked for the union minimum of $747 each, Buckley said.
As of last week, the total worth of the ball tickets sold was about $5 million. The committee also tallied at least $1.8 million from tickets to the sold-out Sinatra-produced gala.
Late last week, inaugural chairman Ron Walker said, "We've got 92 percent of the revenue needed to make our budget." Ball tickets, he said, were still selling fast at that time.
The events that were canceled, including a young Americans pageant and a fireworks display, were free and open to the public.
They were to be financed from profits from other events and a $1 million fund filled by corporate and individual donations, officials said.
While the financial picture looked rosy for the committee, it was a different story for vendors working in the aftermath of a record-breaking cold spell that emptied streets and forced cancellation of the parade.
"It's been a devastating experience ever since I got here," said a souvenir vendor who came in from St. Louis, hoping to pay for his trip and take home a small profit.
"Now, I'm a couple of hundred dollars in the red. I can't eat these things," he added, pointing to about 200 unsold buttons.
Mort Berkowitz, head of a New York advertising specialty firm that makes commemorative buttons, had some unsold merchandise too: more than 22,000 buttons.
Berkowitz came to Washington hoping to make about $15,000, but he may lose almost that much, he said by telelphone yesterday after traveling home with his unsold wares.
"The only event we had a chance of selling at was the parade," he added. "And with the weather and the [vending permit] restrictions saying you can't go near a hotel entrance, it was impossible."
Stores, including Hecht's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's, however, did well with their inaugural wares.
"We have very little left: a jelly belly here, an umbrella there and some license plates," said Peggy Disney, of Hecht's. "And Monday, people were just buying a lot of merchandise. They even wanted to take our signs, the ones that said "Official Inaugural Store."
Yesterday, on Pennsylvania Avenue and on the Capitol grounds, remnants of the inaugural weekend were disappearing fast.
On the presidential platform at the Capitol's West Front, workmen took down the bulletproof glass and rolled up the red carpets. Others began taking away 26,000 folding chairs that were never used.
Along the avenue, bleacher seats for about 25,000 parade ticket-holders were being taken down, and workers began dismantling the presidential reviewing stand.
Despite the parade cancellation, the D.C. government probably will spend "pretty close to" the $2.3 million originally allocated for the celebration, said Joseph P. Yeldell, director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness.
The city saved money on overtime for about 1,000 police officers who were not needed Monday, according to Yeldell. But the savings were largely eaten up by the cost of calling in extra crews to clean snow off the parade route before word of the cancellation came.
At inaugural offices, officials said they had received no calls for refunds yet.
One couple from Utah told reporters Monday that asking for a refund might be unpatriotic, so they'd take the loss.
Committee marketing director Douglass Blaser thought the idea might catch on. "Maybe people will frame the tickets as souvenirs," he suggested.
But that was not the mood of the few visitors still in town. "I say it's unpatriotic to cancel the inauguration [parade]," said James Howard, of Dallas. "They promised it would last an hour and 15 minutes. Lots of people came just for this . . . . I could have coped with the cold."