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Museum suffering lowest turnout ever

Barely 150,000 people have seen the "Alexander the Great" exhibit, well short of the 525,000 needed to break even.

With two weeks left before its March 31 close, "Alexander" is suffering the worst attendance in the Florida International Museum's history, averaging as few as one-third of the daily visitors to previous exhibits on Russian czars and Egyptian pharaohs. "We're very disappointed. And we're perplexed by it," museum president Joseph F. Cronin said Monday.

Cronin partly attributes the poor showing to the negligible boost received from opening a month early to coincide with the October vice presidential debate here, to two nights of disturbances last fall that may have detoured tourists and to publicity about the museum's ballooning debt and management difficulties.

On Monday the museum gave its first monthly report to St. Petersburg. The reports are required since the city agreed in February to give the museum $5.4-million, buying its building, covering debts on "Alexander" and funding its next exhibit, "Titanic." W. Richard "Dick" Johnston will be the museum's chief financial officer, working on a consulting basis, the report says. He is a certified public accountant and resigned from the board to take the job. The city bars board members from doing business with the museum.

Several positions must be filled with the departure of its management. Exhibition director James E. Broughton could leave as early as April if he and the museum can agree on terms. The museum decided not to renew his contract when it expires in July. Broughton met with his employees Monday to discuss plans, but declined comment through a spokesperson.