Archive for July, 2009

Orange County Performing Arts Center (OCPAC)

Orange County Performing Arts Center (OCPAC)

At the end of June, The Broadway League sent out their latest research report to their membership, The Audience for Touring Broadway 2007-2008. The report represents the results of surveys conducted at 51 venues across the country between June 2007 through June 2008.

The report’s findings support what I stated in my early June post, The Road on The Tonys — Broadway and The Road count on each other for survival. Echoing this notion, the well-regarded New York theater producer, Ken Davenport points up a couple of the stats from the report in one of his recent blog posts, highlighting how important the touring audience is to Broadway, as the folks who see Touring Broadway shows at their local performing arts centers around the country also make up over one third of the Broadway audience.

The statistic in the report that I found most illuminating though, as it relates specifically to The Road, is that in 2008 over 80% of Touring Broadway theatergoers came from households with an annual income of over $50,000. According to the 2006-2007 US Census Bureau Press Release though, the median household income was $50,233. Assuming this median household income figure did not significantly rise in 2007-2008, this seems to indicate that ticket prices on The Road are likely out of reach for a large portion of the population, since 80% of the ticket buyers seem to come from households making more than the median income, while only 20% of households making below the median income attend theater.

Why I find these stats of particular interest is because they point up an inherent problem facing presenters who want to bring in younger people to broaden their audience base. It’s a pretty safe bet to say that most of this country’s younger demographic does not make over $50,000/year, especially in the current economy, and if 80% of Touring Broadway ticket buyers make over $50,000/yr, it, therefore, seems logical to conclude that an annual income of at least $50,000 is required for most people to be able to comfortably afford ticket prices of touring shows on a regular basis. To make matters more challenging, younger audiences today, of course, have access to many other attractive entertainment options, so if they do have money to spend on one event…it may not be on theater.

So what’s a Presenter to do?

I was on the road a couple of weeks back driving from San Diego to LA, and on the way I paid a visit to the Orange County Performing Arts Center, an impressive complex in Costa Mesa, Ca, and one of the participating theaters in The Broadway League’s survey.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to chat with a member of the OCPAC staff, who also kindly gave me a tour of the grand 3,000 seat space. I asked him how sales were going for 2009-2010, if there had been any noticeable changes due to the economy. He said that subscription renewals were in good shape, but they were a little concerned about how successful they would be in attracting new subscribers. In looking at the OCPAC Broadway Series pricing, there seem to be options available that make a subscription accessible to those who are not able to afford, or simply don’t want to spend the money on, more expensive seats. Also, a number of the OCPAC Broadway Series offerings are shows with a generally younger appeal and following including, Monty Python’s Spamalot, Xanadu, Spring Awakening and In The Heights. While these sorts of shows attract younger audiences though, they could run the risk of alienating the traditional subscriber base. To avoid this issue, OCPAC seems to be attempting to balance their season by also offering “safe,” familiar titles such as Dreamgirls, Young Frankenstein and The Lion King.

Will OCPAC’s 2009-2010 Broadway series programming choices and accessible subscriber package options be the magic formula to bring about big grosses and a broader audience base? Check back here at The Road 101 to find out!

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Will "Thriller" the musical become Broadway reality?

Will "Thriller" the musical become a Broadway reality?

As a follow-up to my previous post, “Hitting the Jacko-Pot? Dead Legends and Theatre,” about how the life or work of legendary dead music artists over the years has often been fodder for new musicals, including the pending multimillion-dollar Broadway musical based on Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, check out Michael Riedel’s July 1st column, where he offers his thoughts, as well as information about the challenges the Nederlanders now face in the wake of Jackson’s death to make this a reality.

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