How SPAC Lost Its New York City Ballet Audience.

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) has been the Summer Home of the New York City Ballet (NYCB) since 1966.  SPAC has had 47 years to build a ballet audience.  By this time, several generations of children, should have been welcomed to attend matinees from this game changer ballet company.  The matinee program selection was geared towards pleasing young audiences – How could you not build an audience with two ballet matinees being presented each week the NYC Ballet was in Saratoga Springs.  Attendance peaked in 1978 with over 90,000 attending the NYC Ballet for the three-week season. 

SPAC’s contract with New York State, its landlord, states SPAC will provide programs of the performing arts at reduced rates for children of school age.  As such, tickets for the matinee are priced differently than evening performances.    All amphitheater matinee tickets are sold as either adults OR child/senior.  Tickets are sold at these set prices no matter where you sit.  Order tickets early and get great seats.

So how did SPAC lose its ballet audience?  It lost a generation, or two, by not seeing beyond the numbers on an accounting sheet.  Rather than build an audience, SPAC decided to increase prices dramatically.  

There is a direct correlation between huge price increase and attendance. SPAC began, in earnest, to lost the ballet audience when it increased its ballet matinee prices for child/senior by 600%  ($2.50 to $15.00) and adults by 500% ( $4.00 to $20.00)  in 9 years (1987-96).   By 1996, attendance was down to 55,843.  Minutes from the 1996 membership meting state ballet attendance is down, especially matinees.  Carrying these numbers out to today, carrying the trend out to today, we have a 1000% increase for child/senior ($2.50 to $25.00) and a 750% increase for adults ($4.00 to $30.00).  The worst part is: these price increases hit children and seniors the most.  The audience the matinees were supposed to foster  –  SPAC priced heavily against.

In a nutshell, SPAC has NOT geared itself towards building a ballet audience.  Instead, it looks to always increase ticket prices.  Rather than making a permanent Summer home for the NYCB, SPAC has foster it’s decline by pricing out children (and the seniors who would bring them).

To reverse this trend, SPAC should reduce prices for child/seniors to equal a movie theater price and throw in an ice cream with every child/senior admission. SPAC should fill the seats, expedite ice cream disbursement during intermission and build an audience for the future.  SPAC might drown is a sea of red ink at first but I believe a future audience would be build to ensure not only the NYCB future at SPAC but SPAC’s future as well. 

Building an audience for the New York City Ballet – that would be the real measure of success – that’s why SPAC was created – that’s where SPAC has failed.  

Season    Attendance     Weeks       Child/Sr. Matinee Price

2012                                        2                      $25.00

2011         36,784                  2                      $23.50

2010        34,509                   2                      

2009        38,283                   2                     $23.50

2008        42,354                   3                     $23.50

2003        55,496                   3                     $19.50

2002        51,558                   3                      $17.50

2001        54,657                    3                      $17.50

2000       53,207                    3                      $17.50

1999        58,207                   3                      $15.00 

1998        53,050                   3                       $15.00

1997        60,204                   3                       $15.00

1996        55,843                   3                       $15.00 (600% increase in 9 yrs.) 

1995        64,601                    3                       $12.00 

1991        84,613                    3                        $6.00

1987        75,896                    3                        $2.50

1978        90,154                    3

1976        75,442                    3

1966        64,303                   4

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