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Mel Johnson

Boston Ballet Box Office Woes

34 posts in this topic

Christine Temin wrote a Sunday "think piece" regarding dance audiences, ticket sales and performance venues which made many points consistent with what's been said here. She also corrected some of those numbers. The total capacity of the Wang Center for the Onegin run was 43,000 and 18,000 tickets were sold, she said.

Still, this is horrendous. I saw Onegin twice and I don't do that often - it was beautifully danced and acted, especially by Larissa Ponomarenko. The male leads seemed weaker, but since the Onegin character is such a toad in this re-telling, it must be a hard part to act credibly. After seeing the ballet, I read the novel. There, Onegin is self-absorbed, bored and cold, not cruel, and a more believable character. But I digress....

This was such a wonderful ballet and it moved me so much, I just felt I was in a majority and assumed it was a great success. The audiences were tremendously positive. The Sunday matinee I subscribe to was quite well attended. At the Tuesday night performance, I couldn't get as good seats as I was willing to buy, so I thought all must be well. The numbers say otherwise.

Since this was a wonderful ballet, it was danced beautifully, it had excellent notices, it was thoroughly accessible, what could be the problem? This should have been a hugh box office success.

Well, I agree with all of what other posters have said here. Additionally, even educated people hadn't heard of it and it was choreographed recently, which in the view of one Nutcracker parent, made it risky and possibly avant-garde, like the Forsythe from the season opener. This was ignorance, and we could leave it at that, but if Nutcracker parents won't go for it, that may mean that a possibly large group of likely ballet goers isn't getting reached.

I think there's another set of factors: ticket prices are pretty high and people are unwilling to risk a lot of money on something unknown, especially in the crummy economy. I know these are rough figures, but if 18,000 tickets were sold and 25,000 seats were empty and the ticket prices were cut 1/3, wouldn't they break even if they sold 9,000 more seats? The prices now are $12.50 to $72, but the $12.50 seats in the Wang are very bad. If the $72 went down to $48, and all but the lowest were reduced similarly, might not the people come?

I'm sure this kind of thing is chewed over constantly in the theatre business and it is a big risk to lower prices, but isn't that what most businesses do when the product isn't selling?

I think the Boston Ballet is dancing at a very, very high level now and that their recovery from the gross mismanagement of the past Board and other undesirables has been miraculous. I think on the whole that the season planned by Nissenen is imaginative and balanced.

After the Nutcracker madness is over (in which I am involved in a chauffeuring capacity), they are putting on La Fille Mal Gardee. So many people would enjoy this, it would be an awful shame if this weren't a box office success. But I think that's likely as well, because it's got a French name - another Nut parent called it "The Girl in the Garden"), because it was re-choreographed recently (avant-garde risk), even if it was originally very, very old (heightened risk it's boring) and because most people never heard of it.

I wanted to write the Ballet's marketing department about an idea I had for a clever advertisement for La Fille Mal Gardee, but they need more than clever ideas.

Any feeling about lower ticket prices?

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Thanks 4T's for the "inside view" of the numbers.

I think everybody wishes prices could be lowered, but unfortunately there so much cost in putting together a huge production, that like most other companies, ticket prices barely cover the production cost.

In reading the posts over, it seems that the scandal really damaged "consumer confidence" and it's just going to take some time to get it back.

I think "Fille" does very well, because of word of mouth, despite a title that everyone pronounces differently. Plus it's light and fun, and as was reported on the ABT threads, pretty timeless. It will be interesting to see how it does. Keep us posted!

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At least "The Girl in the Garden" beats "The Girl Being Sick in the Garden". ;)

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Reminds me...I once heard an eager patron translate Debussy's "Danse Sacree et Profane" as "Sacred Dance with Swearing" (!)

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A good companion for the piece I once overheard translated as Ravel's "Lament for a Dead Baby."

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The rational 4Ts gave for lowering ticket prices was that increased volume could more than make up for the lower price to result in higher total revenue. It's hard to tell, but it's possile that is true. Our ticket prices are dramatically lower than BB's; maybe too low for now, because we sell out every show.

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Lower ticket prices work if the audience is being priced out of the market. Sometimes, distressingly enough, you get the same audience, only they're paying less. A company's health has a great deal to do with earned income. Perhaps targeted discounts (like NYCB's 4th Ring Society) would catch the people who needed the discount rather than those who didn't.

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[Note: This confirms some of the news under the "CNN reports problems" thread...]

Apparently, we are not the only ones who have worried about the impression left by all the empty seats at Boston Ballet performances.

As a Boston Ballet subscriber, I recently received a letter from Valerie Wilder explaining changes in the upcoming Boston Ballet season schedule.

According to this letter, Ms. Wilder has “observed that [boston Ballet] has more performances than other similarly sized or even larger ballet companies…also…there are many empty seats in The Wang Theatre, particularly for the mixed repertory programs.”

Thus, “beginning this fall, Boston Ballet will adopt a performance format similar to ones that have proven successful at other major Northern American ballet companies. Two productions will be performed in tandem over a three-week period – a full-length ballet and a repertory program… in addition, the balcony of The Wang Theatre [with the exception of the mezzanine] will be closed and will no longer be available for subscription or single tickets. “

In closing, she notes that this season the Boston Ballet experienced a 10% increase in subscription sales. [note that a recently posted link gives a figure of "600 additional subscribers"]

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I've been attending performances of the Boston Ballet for several years now and I am wondering if anyone else feels that the price of tickets has been a deterrent to attending more than one or two ballets per season. This year the ticket prices have increased to approximately $80 per ticket for orchestra seats. Boston audiences are not used to paying that much for ballet tickets. That is a lot of money (especially in this economy) for the average person to pay. I know from speaking with Nutcracker families, that ticket prices were definately a problem during the Nutcracker season. Families that would have liked to have seen the production several times because their child(ren) were in it, did not attend more than once or could not invite extended family members to the show. I think the Boston Ballet has relied heavily on Nutcracker families for its past revenues. The estimated shortfall this year for the Nutcracker was $800,000. Nutcracker revenues have always helped support the rest of the Boston Ballet's productions.

Do you think that they would have more sellouts, if ticket prices were not so high. In the end, they would make more money.

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