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Boston Ballet Box Office Woes


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#16 Watermill

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Posted 11 November 2002 - 12:43 PM

Sorry...in a bit of a rush...I was refering to Calliope's concern Onegin is too obscure to sell many seats. But that flies in the face of the facts as SusanB has presented them. A popular company trying out a risky unfamiliar full length still sells half the house, because it's built up a trusting (and hopefully subscibed) audience willing to give it a chance. This seems to not be the case in Boston. So what happened? I agree that the first place to look is the subscription base. What about other Boston sized cities? How are they doing for audience?



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#17 Calliope

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Posted 11 November 2002 - 12:52 PM

it's not kid or date friendly!
All the other full lengths (with the exception of Bayadere) are pretty known stories.

I think many companies are feeling a bit of a pinch, and some companies seem to be shrinking "dancer wise"

#18 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 November 2002 - 01:48 PM

I can hear the marketing now. An official-sounding pronouncement at the end of any audio commercial, "This ballet is recommended for mature audiences." The kids will flock to it!;)

#19 SusanB

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Posted 11 November 2002 - 02:27 PM

Calliope,

I agree that Onegin is not kid friendly, but neither is Don Q, Bayadere, Hunchback or Giselle. Frankly, I only think of Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella as ballets that pull kids out in droves, many of them dusting off their tiaras for the occasion. But Onegin is a dramatic love story tragedy sort of ballet and would be a perfect date ballet. Boston advertises extensively in Boston, in print and on tv and radio.

I was at a fundraiser for BB two years ago and I was speaking to a gentleman who told me he had donated some of his dot com stock to the company and had become one of their *big doners* with all of the requiste treatment. During the conversation he mentioned that some people had decided to withhold support for the company because of the tumultous situtation. I don't know how BB has been affected in terms of giving but now, recalling that conversation, I am wondering if alienation is a sizeable part of the ticket sales problem.

#20 Alexandra

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Posted 11 November 2002 - 03:42 PM

I'd take children to see Don Q -- it's a comedy, it's lots and lots of dancing. I once got an 11-year-old boy to come with me to "Giselle" by saying it's a ghost story, and in the second act a bad woman tries to dance the man to death. "Ma! Can I go???" He liked it.

In DC, the "full lengths," especially matinees, are usually chock full of children. I might demur at Hunchback, but not the others.

But to Susan's more central point, there could well have been supporters of particular dancers, staff, etc at BB who are upset with what happened and are withholding both their money and their presence. Whether that would cause the very noticable dip in attendance though would be hard to say.

#21 fendrock

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 11:34 AM

It seems to me that, if people were staying away due to chaotic management, last year would have been the year to do it, as the season ran without even a full-time artistic director.

#22 bbfan

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 02:53 PM

Before I entered this discussion I was hoping to tap into some sources for more accurate info on Onegin ticket sales, but haven't yet. So this is an educated guess. I'm pretty sure that more than 7000 tickets were sold, including subscriptions, over the two week period. We went twice on weekend nights. The first week the orchestra (which seats 1800) was between 1/3 and half full. The dress circle seats 600. The balcony/mezzanine seats 1400. There are subscribers in both the dress circle and balcony/mezzanine as well as the orchestra. If the DC was 1/3 full and the balcony 1/4 full then maybe there would have been 1100+ that one night. If I assume the other weekend evening and opening nights were similar that would account for 3300 for only 3 performances the first week. The second weekend we went there were noticeably more people there - some repeaters like us, some for the first time. There was a line of people waiting to buy or pickup tickets when we arrived, the lobby was more crowded, seats filled farther back in the orchestra, etc. Not sold out but far from empty. So imagine the second two weekend night performances had maybe 1500 each. (And I'm making low estimates). That would bring the attendance for 5 performances to 6300. Nothing I've heard suggests that the remaining 7 performances were nearly empty. I'm assuming the number Temin quoted was wrong, based on partial data or some misunderstanding.

I have heard that subscription sales for Boston Ballet have been going well, with much interest in how the company is doing under its new management and direction.

FWIW - we know a couple who used to be subscribers but are now caught up in child rearing and exurban living. They came with us to the new choreography progarm, loved it, remembered Onegin from a performance in Boston years ago and got another couple to join them for that. I guess the point is that this is the third time BB has performed Onegin so it is not completely unfamiliar. Nevertheless, it would have been nice if even more people had come.

#23 Guest_jmbailey_*

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Posted 15 November 2002 - 02:10 PM

Just to set the record straight: As I understand it, the 7,000 tickets number for Onegin was only for single ticket sales. I believe BB has some 12,000 subscribers, so the total attendance at Onegin was more like 19,000. And yes, there has been much tumult at the company over the past few years, but new management is in place and things seem to be settling down. I hope so, because it's a wonderful company!

#24 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 15 November 2002 - 04:39 PM

Thank you for clarifying that, jmbailey, and welcome to Ballet Alert! Online :) We are all hoping that things will work out well for the Boston Ballet, which is indeed a very fine company!

#25 Watermill

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Posted 15 November 2002 - 07:10 PM

I would also like to thank jmbailey for providing the answer to to a situation I found unbelievable.
In the same breath, I would like to invite Ms. Temin of the Globe to to get her facts straight before publishing outrageous statistics that get me all in a dither!
Now I can go back to worrying about the Red Sox...

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#26 4Ts

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Posted 18 November 2002 - 10:02 PM

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?

#27 Calliope

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Posted 19 November 2002 - 05:08 AM

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!

#28 Mel Johnson

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Posted 19 November 2002 - 05:12 AM

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

#29 Watermill

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Posted 19 November 2002 - 12:01 PM

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

#30 dirac

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Posted 19 November 2002 - 01:11 PM

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


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