Saturday, November 21, 2009

Both Stratford and Shaw report success in 2009

Earlier this month, I received the news from both tbe Shaw and Stratford festivals on closing numbers following the 2009 seasons, and generally the news is good, in spite of these recessionary times. Maybe people just wanted to get out and forget about it all, I don't know. But generally speaking both festivals did well, all things considered.

The Shaw Festival's Executive Director Colleen Blake reported attendance results for 2009 of 253,000 or 63.5% of capacity. Given the tough economic times and the fact they began rehearsals in March at 20% behind the year-to-year sales target, this is good news. Especially when you consider the 800 performances in 2009 brought in box office revenues of 13.7 million and the percentage total is just 6 1/2 % behind the 2008 attendance of 70% of capacity.

The recession obviously had an impact on the Shaw season, along with other tourism partners throughout the Niagara Region, but funding from both the federal and provincial governments to bolster marketing initiatives aimed at key Canadian and American markets proved to help this season. It's interesting to note the Shaw's box office revenues drive an overall economic impact of close to $ 100 million annually for the Niagara Region, so that should quiet the nay-sayers who pooh-pooh funding for the arts. They bring in the money, and the tourists, plain and simple.

Tickets for the 2010 season go on sale to the general public starting January 11th; Shaw Festival Members already have the opportunity to buy tickets for the upcoming season.

Meantime, over at the Stratford Festival, generally good reviews and a $3.5 million boost in marketing funds from both the federal and provincial governments meant the festival wrapped up its 2009 season on an upbeat note. The final weekend of the season, earlier this month, saw sold-out performances of their two most popular shows this season, the musicals West Side Story and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, both of which had their runs extended. While advance ticket sales were described as "sluggish" (a nice way of saying they were behind targets) they eventually picked up and the fall season was unexpectedly busy. Board chair Richard Rooney called the season "a triumph" and I don't think many would dispute that.

The 2010 season kicks off in April, with the box office reopening in January.

I generally found Stratford had the more solid season this year than Shaw, which was hampered by the collection of ten one-act Noel Coward plays, Tonight at 8:30, which although interesting, failed to light a fire under a lot of theatre-goers. But the fact both festivals finished the season strong with better numbers than expected at the start of the season bodes well for next season. Perhaps the economic recovery is indeed upon us, slowly but surely, and we'll see more bums in the seats next season. Let's hope so.

November 21st, 2009.

No comments: