Thursday, June 14, 2007

It's the economy, stupid

A debate is raging these days over how to revive the supposedly moribund art form of theatre. To me, of course, it ain't moribund; it's just too expensive. I found some support for my view in this article in today's Times, about the Signature Theater Company, which dedicates each season to a single playwright's work. Signature is even better known, however, for its low ticket prices - last year $15, this year $20 (with help from a generous corporate sponsor, Time Warner - I'll try to find out who to write to to thank them - as well as a board member).

The "money" quote (as it were):

For the last two seasons Signature charged $15 for every seat through a deal with Time Warner, the lead sponsor of the ticket initiative. (When shows are extended, tickets go back up to the normal price, which was $55 last season and will be $65 in the coming four.)

James Houghton, the Signature’s artistic director, said the ticket initiative was an unambiguous success, with all productions selling out, some within 48 hours. According to surveys conducted at the theater, half of the ticket buyers were new to the Signature, a quarter earned less than $50,000 a year, and a fifth were under 35.

1 comment:

  1. Bingo.

    Remember, Citizens Bank has been instrumental in this way for Trinity Rep down in Rhode Island.

    Meanhile, up here in Boston, as our large institutions (John Hancock, Fleet, etc,) keep merging, it appears the absorbing entities seem to take the view that the arts need to stand on their own. This keeps ticket prices high and enslaves artistic organizations to the subscriber base.

    Although, just because theatre is cheap, won't mean it's good.

    I remember a few years back, when the movie business was in a terrible slump at the box office, they commissioned a huge comprehensive study of the audience. They were primarily interested in their chief demographic of the teenagers and young people.

    What did they find? Were the ticket prices too high? Were the young'uns lured more by video games or on demand entertainment at home? Were extracurricular activities keeping them too busy and too tired to go to the movies?

    The hilarious result of the multi-million dollar study of the young movie going audience was that they were staying away (drumroll please)...because they felt the movies that hollywood was putting out were just not any good.