Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New York City Ballet attendance UP in 2011! Time to bring back week three.

Ballet numbers up at SPAC
Orchestra attendance falls
Monday, August 22, 2011
By Lee Coleman (Contact)
Gazette Reporter

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SARATOGA SPRINGS — The just-completed classical season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center is being called a success even though attendance was down for performances of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

On the plus side, the New York City Ballet posted nearly a 7 percent increase in attendance this summer compared to the 2010 season and an 8 percent increase in revenue.

Marcia White, SPAC’s president and executive director, said Monday that attendance at Philadelphia Orchestra performances dropped almost 12 percent from last year, which featured a substantial 21 percent increase over 2009.

“They moved their season dates up a week,” White said about the orchestra’s 2011 season. This earlier start coincided with the first full week of thoroughbred horse racing at the Saratoga Race Course, resulting in competition for the entertainment dollar.

The Philadelphia Orchestra started its three-week SPAC tenure during the last week of July rather than the usual first week of August. Several very rainy nights during the orchestra’s residency also brought the orchestra’s numbers down, especially among those patrons who enjoy sitting on the lawn outside the SPAC amphitheater.

Last year, perfect summer weather blessed the orchestra’s entire stay at SPAC, driving up attendance, White said. The Philadelphia Orchestra still posted a 5 percent increase in attendance this summer over the summer of 2009.

“The second two weeks were strong,” she said.

“Audiences embraced the eight renowned guest conductors who each brought their own unique style and mastery to the podium,” White said in a statement. “Virtuosos including Yo-Yo Ma, Sarah Chang, Emanuel Ax, and Branford Marsalis dazzled us with their gifts.”

The New York City Ballet had a total attendance of 36,784 over two weeks this July as compared with 34,509 in 2010.

Total ballet income was $936,304 this year compared to $863,065 in 2010, an increase of 8.5 percent, according to classical season numbers released by SPAC on Monday.

“Guests embraced fresh new programs like ‘See the Music’ and pre-talks by principal dancers which fostered a greater connection between audience and artist,” White said.

The Philadelphia Orchestra total attendance was 35,765 this year as compared with 40,464 in 2010.

Income from the orchestra was $902,315 this summer as compared to $986,184 in 2010, a decrease of 8.5 percent.

The biggest classical season audience of this 2011 — more than 5,000 people — attended the season finale of the Philadelphia Orchestra on Aug. 13.

White said economic problems — first the debt ceiling debate and then steep stock market drops — dominated the news this summer.

In reaction to this, she said families are embracing the value of seeing world-class entertainment at very reasonable prices close to home.

She said the “GE Kids in Free” program grew by 8 percent and the student discount program has grown by 11 percent between 2010 and 2011.

Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said having such excellent classical entertainment in Saratoga “means a ton” for the community.

“We are attracting world-class talent to SPAC,” he said. “These are things you can’t see anywhere else in upstate New York.

“The arts play an integral part of what makes Saratoga Springs so special,” Shimkus said.

He said it’s very important for the greater Saratoga community to do whatever it can to sustain and encourage the orchestra and ballet.

White said she expects both the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York City Ballet to return to SPAC in 2012. She said discussions are being conducted with both parties about next season but nothing has yet been finalized

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