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