Theater Managers Struggle with Lower Subscriptions

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Patrons are skipping subscriptions, and theater managers are hustling.

A dragging economy and competition from a range of cheap entertainment options are reconfiguring the culture business in New York City. Revenue from subscribers fell 18 percent in the five years ending in 2011, according to a survey of 113 nonprofit theater groups by the Theatre Communications Group.

Philip Boroff, reporter for Bloomberg News, said there’s been a psychological shift, particularly since 9/11. “Part of it is just people not wanting to commit way ahead,” he said. But he also explained it's a money issue. “There’s the economy, and that reverberates in so many different ways.”

Roundabout Theater’s been hit particularly hard. “Because it’s the biggest subscription theater in New York City, they’ve fallen the furthest,” Boroff said. “Their subscribers have fallen about 40 percent.”

Listen to Host Amy Eddings’ full interview with Philip Boroff by clicking above.


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Comments [4]

Bored at Work from Brooklyn

Re. the Roundabout Theater. I used to be a subscriber but the inconsistent quality of their productions (Three-Penny Opera, anyone?), coupled with the high cost, led me to drop my subscription. Also, their incredibly aggressive and actually creepy telemarketing operation was very off-putting. Like Wayne, I think its better to maintain more options rather than tying oneself to a single company.

Mar. 01 2013 01:22 PM
Wayne Kabak from New York, NY

I think the problem stems less from the economy than the fact that the non-profit sector is growing increasingly robust in terms of the amount and variety of offerings. As a very regular theatergoer, I've gotten to the point where I prefer to maintain the flexibility to graze from the offerings of many theaters rather than restrict myself by subscribing to the few. In addition, discounting has become so routine that the financial incentive to buy subscriptions has been diminished. All that one sacrifices by not subscribing is the ability to get the first crack at seats when they go on sale. But if you play close attention and buy fast when the discount offers start flowing before, or early in, a run, you can usually get good enough seats. This might not work for the most heavily in-demand shows and theaters (such as Lincoln Center); but for the most part, it works.

Mar. 01 2013 12:08 PM
Steve from New York City > Summit New Jersey

My wife and I have subscribed to the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall for the past 4 years. The series cost $225 per person for 5 Friday evening shows, a great deal. Dinner before the show and car home added $250 to each show . Times that by 5 and you've got 1700 reasons to re-think buying a subscription year after year.

Mar. 01 2013 08:23 AM
Theater Guy from NYC

This is what happens when politicians raise taxes on the wealthy. The successful people in society are funding art and culture.

Mar. 01 2013 08:22 AM

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