Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What will the market bear?

I had a little trouble sleeping last night as my mind latched onto an old argument I've been having with myself since I attended Wright State in the early 90s.  Perhaps it has leapt to mind because of my proximity to my alma mater or maybe it's just time to beat this dead horse again.

The assertion is simple.  Ticket prices for theatre events are simply too high.
If we accept that live theatre is a dying art and that the only way to keep it alive is to cultivate new, or at the very least, infrequently attending audience members, then we must see how those potential audience members are spending their entertainment dollars.

The most obvious answer is at the movie theatre.

My view is simple.  If an audience member must spend siginificantly more to attend the theatre, already an alien idea and experience, then they will have little to no impetus to attend a theatrical event rather than a comfortable and familiar cinema event.

The solution to me seems to be to see what the market will bear in any given area and try to find a way to match that number.

Doing a little quick web research I was able to come up with the US numbers from 2011.  That was the most recent set of stats I could find and I was surprised that the average ticket price across the country was only $7.93.  That's insanely low.

Of course I would submit that in most of the places I have lived, Chicago, L.A., the numbers are much higher, generally in the $12 - $17 range.  I can also say I've paid anywhere from $6 - $20-ish dollars for a movie ticket in the last year.

And I'm just talking about tickets, not the money-making overly priced concessions available at both of these kinds of events.  I'm also not interested in special promotions like the upcoming Zoot series where you can also get a boxed lunch or a bottle of wine for an upsell in addition to he ticket.  I'm only interested in discussing the base ticket price (which in that case I still find steep for your average man on the street).

Now I have to state that I completely understand that their are more pressures on live theatre venues than on movie houses to make more money per person unless they have a major underwriter or underwriters and/or a solid, consistent subscription base, but my feeling has always been, particularly with small theatres, that it would be much more valuable to have butts in seats and fill the house every night at $5 a ticket, than to have a nearly empty or even half full house of people paying full ticket price.

Word of mouth is the name of the game.

Looking over the past year I would guess the ticket prices for theatrical events I have attended (whether comped or not) have ranged from free to all to upwards of $80.  And I don't think we as artists can expect to bring in anyone new, that is not accustomed nor willing to pay those prices, without finding a closer tie-in to what John Q Public pays to go out to the movies at least twice a month (which I am supposing is a fairly conservative average for most Americans).

In fact, if the average amount spent for the year was $628 and we divide it by 52, we still end up with $12 a week, well over the national average.  Though to be fair this can also include concerts, theatre and other entrance fees as well, so I'll stand by my twice a month projection.

I'm not entirely certain what my point is as number-crunching is not my strong point, but this was on my mind, so I had to bring it up.

As for the rest of my day, well, I did some errands with dad and rode 13 miles on the Spirit to rehearsal.  I left 3 hours early (though I arrived in a little less than two) and encountered a few wrong turns and detours, and though I have a sore taintal area, my whole body is feeling the ride.  Even so, I understand from the cycling enthusiasts that if I keep that up I will acclimate to it in a couple of weeks.

Because of one particularly dangerous section of riding, I'm going to re-evaluate the route and see what the alternatives are before doing the whole route again.  There are a few half options, but hey I did it.  And that feels good.

I'll be back on the Spirit sooner rather than later I should think.

That's the plan anyway.

Oh and for you sticklers, rehearsal consisted of another run of Midsummer and a read of Faustus for Zoot Artistic Director, Tristan Cupp.  Then McKnight took me back to Stillborn and we had a little visit with my folks.  Shortly thereafter, I collapsed of exhaustion . . .


Funding:                105.8%
Days in Ohio:         23
Today is sponsored by Schezaad Ausman

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