Boston Ballet Box Office Woes
Posted 10 November 2002 - 04:41 AM
Posted 09 November 2002 - 05:40 PM
Posted 09 November 2002 - 10:17 PM
Posted 09 November 2002 - 01:48 PM
I do know that under Anna Marie Holmes' artistic direction that Boston Ballet was constantly sold out -- and often added weekday matinee shows -- when they performed full length ballets. Rep programs always sold less.
In my opinion Boston Ballet has terribly mistreated members of the organization, both artistic and administrative. Reading Bruce Marks' recent interview he pointed out that the company fired or lost every administrative and artistic staff member from his watch save one -- conductor Jonathan McFee. He sounded upset and I think he said something like it takes a lot of effort to do that to a company.
I suspect that the Boston Ballet Board has been attempting to restructure the AD position to one whose artistic vision is subordinate to the Board's, and to find someone who will be a figure head and not a strong artistic advocate. Both Bruce Marks and Anna Marie Holmes seemed to have clear artistic vision and stong wills. Anna Marie Holmes was pushed out and I wonder why Bruce Marks left a company that he built into a magnificent organization.
I believe, and I have no evidence at all to back this up, that Maina Gielgud left abruptly before even beginning her first year because her vision of the AD position was different than the Board's. I don't believe she fired all of those dancers, merely carried out the mandate of the BB Board.
Posted 09 November 2002 - 11:39 AM
"And developing dance makers are what the ballet world needs - globally, but particularly in Boston, which lacks a loyal public for dance. Boston Ballet is in dire need of an audience. The company recently danced ''Onegin,'' the finest story ballet it has ever presented, in the Wang Theatre. Ticket sales were pitiful, only 7,000 seats in all. At the Wang, that's less than the equivalent of two full houses, spread across 12 performances. "
Is this true? If it is, BB has it's work cut out in the next year. A company that size cannot survive such terrible Box Office. Good grief: that's selling approx 17% of avail seating!
What happened? Did the public lose interest during all the controversies in leadership? Did BB get out of touch with their audience? Have they failed to build audience over the last few years?
Is the huge Wang Center (and its huge rent) a mistake?
Is anyone else as shocked as I am? This is supposed to be a top ten company; it has a new & exciting Artistic Director; received very strong critical praise for its first three programs...???
Would someone from Boston (my home town) please illuminate the situation?
Posted 09 November 2002 - 07:21 PM
Mr. Mateo has his own ideas of what's wrong with BB. Most of these problems are things he thinks is wrong with most of the way ballet is done, not Boston Ballet specifically. At the risk of sounding critical of an organization I know little about (BB), I will repeat, these are things wrong IN GENERAL with ballet, not with any specific organization:
* Outdated acting style (acting has changed in the past 100 years in other theater arts, except for ballet)
* Outdated narrative style.
* Full-length ballets are too long for a modern audience.
* Too much performance of works by dead choreographers. (Ballet is a living art, and seems to work best when the choreographer is alive and can be right there working with the company).
* Lack of choreographic consistency in Nutcrackers (most are done by many choreographers)
* Movement style that reads as "unnatural" and "aloof" to an audience (modern audiences respond better to the "personal connection" more common in modern dance).
* Lack of integration between training of dancers and the choreography danced by those dancers (Balanchine had this, but many large ballet organizations do not).
BB could very well be a top ten company. That means it has a good budget and is able to hire great dancers with it. John Cranko was no slouch of a choreographer either; Onegin is considered a real masterpiece. All that could be true. But if the Boston audience isn't "there" with the company, it just won't come. Boston audience is notoriously difficult for dance, so please give BB some credit for its efforts.
People I know who saw Onegin were pleased with it.
The Wang Center might be a mistake. However, getting an "appropriately sized" theater in Boston is really hard. Maybe the Emerson Majestic, at just under 1000 seats, would be more appropriate for Boston Ballet's rep performances. I do not know whether they have investigated options other than the Wang.
Posted 11 November 2002 - 06:56 AM
And, let's face it, Onegin is not a household name. Not even close. In the general public, two ballet names are well known: Nutcracker and Swan Lake (if the people have ever had any contact with the art form, we can add Giselle, Coppelia, and Sleeping Beauty to that list.) The only other story ballets that seem to have a huge turn-out in Philadelphia are based on popular stories like Cinderella and Dracula.
Onegin also suffers from having a difficult-to-pronounce name, a fairly adult storyline, and a choreographer who is not a household name either. I hate to be pessimistic, especially since the reviews of the production were so wonderful, but I think that Onegin is not the type of full-length ballet that people are flocking to see.
Bostonians, feel free to prove me wrong. I know that Onegin, Le Corsaire, La Bayadere, etc., sell out in NYC, but do they sell well in your city?
Posted 11 November 2002 - 07:48 AM
In the past, just about every full length ballet nearly has sold out -- or at least sold extremely well -- in Boston. Boston audiences sold out 3 full weeks of Sleeping Beauty a few years ago, and weekday matinee performances were added. Similarly, all the full lengths of the past few years -- La Bayadere, Cleopatra, Don Quixote, Giselle, Dracula, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Madame Butterfly -- sold very well.
Rep programs have always sold less, but the theater seldom seemed that empty, except for occasional triple bills. The kind of attendance that would result in 7000 total tickets sold over 12 performaces is not quite 600 people per performance. The Wang has a 3800 seat capacity.
My question is does a Board do anything in the middle of a season when the first two runs sell this poorly? Does a company with a budget like BB's have some cushion or would this put them in some sort of budget crisis? Does anyone know what happens when a company suddenly loses that much in attendance?
Posted 11 November 2002 - 08:13 AM
Posted 11 November 2002 - 08:23 AM
The Kennedy Center Opera House is only about 2200, and is not always sold out, even for big name companies, like the Royal.
If the attendance has fallen off that much, it is an interesting question. Boston Ballet has been doing a lot of press -- we get a press release a week from them, it seems, often on new classes they're starting for this group or that, and very detailed releases about the programs, etc.
One difference that's very notable here is how much of a difference subscribers make. When a company comes for two weeks, and one week is on subscription and one is not, the difference in attendance is noticeable (the nonsubscription week has the empty seats).
I wonder -- and this is pure speculation! -- if the drop off has been in subscriptions? When a company has a bad year or two -- or there's a perception of instability -- sometimes people want to hold off on subscribing. Also, of course, change -- any change -- means it takes a few years for the audience to adjust.
Posted 11 November 2002 - 10:44 AM
Re Boston in particular, given the management had dismissed at least one of their most popular dancers before reinstating her, could that tend to leave the audience feeling a bit like chumps?
Posted 11 November 2002 - 11:03 AM
Posted 11 November 2002 - 11:05 AM
Seeing as NY isn't that far from Boston, I can barely say I ever see anything on them, publicity wise. I don't think I've ever seen an ad in the NY Times (other regional companies do take out ads).
I don't know if they bring in guest stars, sometimes that seems to jolt audiences (look at both ABT and NYCB in NY doing it)
and I think they need to find a rep that's consistent.
I don't even see Onegin, I'm not even sure of it's correct pronunciation. I can't imagine new people would want to go to see a ballet for the first time, in a piece they've never heard of.
Back to the basic storybooks, Swan Lake, R&J, Sleeping Beauty.
Posted 11 November 2002 - 12:06 PM
"In the past, just about every full length ballet nearly has sold out -- or at least sold extremely well -- in Boston. Boston audiences sold out 3 full weeks of Sleeping Beauty a few years ago, and weekday matinee performances were added. Similarly, all the full lengths of the past few years -- La Bayadere, Cleopatra, Don Quixote, Giselle, Dracula, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Madame Butterfly -- sold very well. "
Taking consideration of the difficulties mentioned I would expect Onegin to perhaps sell 60% ....BUT NOT 17%!!!
I am suggesting that the bottom has fallen out and unless the Curse of the Bambino has climbed into tights and a tutu I still await a reason for it...
Posted 11 November 2002 - 12:17 PM
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