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Opening night subscribersIf you had 1st Friday, your costs are going way up


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#1 SandyMcKean

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 05:46 PM

I just got my subscription renewal pack for the 2011/2012 season. What I found was a bit disconcerting....you may be affected too.

I have had the 1st Friday evening series for years. Until this year, opening night was the night before (Thursday evening). As most PNB subscribers already know, starting this year those 2 nights were combined such that the company now typically does 7 performances of each program instead of the 8 performances it did in previous years. This change had the additional effect of making the 1st Friday the opening night.

PNB has had mandatory contributions for what it calls "preferred seating" (the better seats in the house). Opening nights have always had extra high mandatory contribution levels for preferred seating. Well, for those of us who had subscriptions on the 1st Friday that night is now opening night, and starting in the 2011-2012 season, we are now subject to the far higher opening night contribution levels. For example, my near center orchestra seats required a $125 contribution in addition to the ticket cost. This year that level of mandatory contribution is going up to a modest $135 for most nights, BUT since the 1st Friday is now also opening night, my mandatory contribution will now be $385........a 300% increase!

#2 richard53dog

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 07:01 PM

I just got my subscription renewal pack for the 2011/2012 season. What I found was a bit disconcerting....you may be affected too.

I have had the 1st Friday evening series for years. Until this year, opening night was the night before (Thursday evening). As most PNB subscribers already know, starting this year those 2 nights were combined such that the company now typically does 7 performances of each program instead of the 8 performances it did in previous years. This change had the additional effect of making the 1st Friday the opening night.

PNB has had mandatory contributions for what it calls "preferred seating" (the better seats in the house). Opening nights have always had extra high mandatory contribution levels for preferred seating. Well, for those of us who had subscriptions on the 1st Friday that night is now opening night, and starting in the 2011-2012 season, we are now subject to the far higher opening night contribution levels. For example, my near center orchestra seats required a $125 contribution in addition to the ticket cost. This year that level of mandatory contribution is going up to a modest $135 for most nights, BUT since the 1st Friday is now also opening night, my mandatory contribution will now be $385........a 300% increase!



They call the premiere of each run an "opening night" and tack a stiff surcharge on it?

That sounds like quite a racket. You need some more competition in Seattle. I would tell them to take their "mandatory contribution", which is in fact a surcharge, and stuff it.

At the MEt Opera, which is certainly the priciest game in town in NYC, the premiere of an opera, even if it falls on a weekend, has a top ticket price of $405. And that is the ticket price, no "mandatory contributions", that's what you pay.
And that's for center PArterre Box; there are actually many seats for considerably less than that that are still considered premium locations.

Of course the actual "Opening Night", in September (there is only one of these per season and it's a red carpet event, not just the first performance of a run), is much pricier. But that's not the same thing as the first night of a mixed bill in Seattle.

#3 Helene

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 07:14 PM

The Met's a bigger theater with many more premium seats. Seattle Opera has been doing "mandatory contributions" for as long as I can remember. The ballet was slower to do this; I think they started with the move to McCaw Hall. At the time I remember a newspaper article about a school teacher, a long-time subscriber, who scraped together the money for an expensive subscription and could no longer afford it when they added a mandatory contribution of hundreds of dollars.

It's become standard operating procedure in Seattle. As far as I know, the Symphony builds it into the price, so that it is not tax-deductible, but my really great seats in the top tier doubled in price over the course of a few years for existing subscribers.

#4 richard53dog

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 08:18 PM

The Met's a bigger theater with many more premium seats. Seattle Opera has been doing "mandatory contributions" for as long as I can remember. The ballet was slower to do this; I think they started with the move to McCaw Hall. At the time I remember a newspaper article about a school teacher, a long-time subscriber, who scraped together the money for an expensive subscription and could no longer afford it when they added a mandatory contribution of hundreds of dollars.

It's become standard operating procedure in Seattle. As far as I know, the Symphony builds it into the price, so that it is not tax-deductible, but my really great seats in the top tier doubled in price over the course of a few years for existing subscribers.



Interesting. I'm glad I don't live in Seattle!

#5 SandyMcKean

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 10:32 PM

They call the premiere of each run an "opening night" and tack a stiff surcharge on it?

Just to be clear......Seattle is a smaller venue, and we are very lucky to have the quality of ballet and opera that we do; but obviously we can't support the number of companies and performances as can a place like NYC. PNB has 6 programs a year. They are run sequentially at the rate of approximately one per month. Each program normally has 7 performances spread over 2 weeks. So the concept of an "opening night" makes some sense here because one typically waits for 2 or 3 weeks with no ballet, then the next run begins with a brand new program. There is no opportunity to see these ballets again except within the 2 week period that the program runs. So each 1st night does "feel" somewhat like an opening night. Then, for whatever reasons, the ballet levies this extra heavy mandatory contribution when a patron subscribes to all 6 of these "opening nights" in the season if they desire premium seating. Understand that this is only for the best seats (I'd estimate approximately 25% of the seats in the house); the remaining 75% of the seats have no mandatory contribution for any night; and the premium seats for non opening nights have a far less mandatory contribution level. Single tickets do not have any mandatory contribution regardless of the quality of the seat -- we are only talking subscriptions here.

That sounds like quite a racket. You need some more competition in Seattle. I would tell them to take their "mandatory contribution", which is in fact a surcharge, and stuff it.

My guess is that the mandatory contribution is probably better than simply higher ticket prices since the contribution part is tax deductable. To give you an idea of 6 program subscriber ticket costs on "opening nights", here is a sampling (the 1st number is the actual ticket cost; the second number is the additional mandatory contribution required for the premium seats): center orchestra = $549/$775; side orchestra = $549/$385; dress circle (i.e., 1st ring) = $1008/$1750; First Tier (i.e., 2 ring) = $459/$135. The full cost of a season subscription is the sum of these 2 numbers. Mandatory contributions for non opening nights are much less; for example, the $775 opening night mandatory contribution for center orchestra seats is reduced to one of the following depending on which night/matinee you go: $385, $260, $135.

#6 richard53dog

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 05:39 AM

My guess is that the mandatory contribution is probably better than simply higher ticket prices since the contribution part is tax deductable. To give you an idea of 6 program subscriber ticket costs on "opening nights", here is a sampling (the 1st number is the actual ticket cost; the second number is the additional mandatory contribution required for the premium seats): center orchestra = $549/$775; side orchestra = $549/$385; dress circle (i.e., 1st ring) = $1008/$1750; First Tier (i.e., 2 ring) = $459/$135. The full cost of a season subscription is the sum of these 2 numbers. Mandatory contributions for non opening nights are much less; for example the in the $775 opening night mandatory contribution for center orchestra seats is reduced to one of the following depending on which night/matinee you go: $385, $260, $135.



Wow. So If I understand the math, for a 6 performance series of Friday nights in the dress circle, the cost is $2758? Amazing;that's about $460 a ticket. PNB has conditioned their audiences very successfully!

#7 Helene

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 09:36 AM

Admin note to puppytreats: Your question about Met seating has been moved from a Seattle-based forum to its own topic in the American Ballet Theatre forum, where it will be seen by people who see ballet regularly at the Met. The answer might be quite different if answered from an opera perspective.


http://balletalert.i...511#entry281511

#8 SandyMcKean

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Posted 08 February 2011 - 12:55 PM

So If I understand the math, for a 6 performance series of Friday nights in the dress circle, the cost is $2758? Amazing;that's about $460 a ticket.

It's not quite as bad as it sounds. Yes, you did the math right, to sit in those most premium of all the premium seats on opening night it costs a subscriber $460. I suspect most of these seats are taken by wealthy patrons who are giving, or would give anyway, significant donations to the ballet. One could look at it as a way of "reserving" the best seats in the house for these big donors. Also, that extra high ticket price of $460 is not on any Friday night, but just on the "opening night" of that program. The same seat on the 2nd week Friday would "only" be $92 (or at most if you were in the 1st two center rows of the dress circle $232).

My point is not the high price of tickets (PNB like most ballet and opera companies only recoups about 50% of their costs from ticket sales), but that those of us who had the 1st Friday subscriptions, have now been forced, without any action on our part, to pay a far higher mandatory contribution (300% increase -- or even a 500% increase for those in the dress circle) when our night "magically" became opening night, over night.....(to make a pun).


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