Home / Trending / As Eccles Theater opened, Pioneer Theatre’s ticket sales hit an all-time low. Then Pioneer braced for the ‘Hamilton’ tour at Eccles.

As Eccles Theater opened, Pioneer Theatre’s ticket sales hit an all-time low. Then Pioneer braced for the ‘Hamilton’ tour at Eccles.

Pioneer noticed the problem coming in the Eccles’ 2016 opening, it advised Salt Lake County officers final 12 months. It had deliberate to hide an anticipated finances shortfall in its 2016-17 season with money reserves.

“Unfortunately, the impact was greater than expected: Total ticket sales for 2016-17 will be at an all-time low,” theater officers wrote final 12 months of their utility for county Zoo, Arts and Parks investment.

Pioneer decreased bills, raised extra in non-public giving and nonetheless needed to faucet more money reserves, it stated.

But the subsequent season — as blockbuster musical “Hamilton” packed the Eccles in spite of what Pioneer famous had been “unprecedentedly high ticket prices” — Pioneer’s ticket sales ticked up, or even surged for person displays.

Going into its 2018-19 season, Karen Azenberg, PTC’s creative director, appears to be like again with some reduction.

“You know what? We survived ‘Hamilton,’” Azenberg stated final week, between rehearsals on Pioneer’s season opener, “Oslo.” Last 12 months’s Tony winner for perfect play, “Oslo” opened Friday.

“We’ve had some challenges, for sure, and I’m not sure that they’re over,” she stated. But she added that fears that the Eccles Theater could be insufferable festival for PTC will have been overblown.

The theater has approached the buddies of its season ticket holders and pitched a deal to more youthful attainable consumers. And Azenberg is constructive that this season’s slate will fulfill a number of audiences.

She’s excited that she were given the rights to 2 of the freshest performs off Broadway, “Oslo” and final 12 months’s Pulitzer winner, Lynn Nottage’s working-class drama “Sweat” (set for March 29-April 13).

“You don’t get bigger prizes than that, and no one else is doing it,” she stated. “Those are both plays that I think are going to outlive much of what we’re seeing around the country right now.”

The Eccles is owned via Salt Lake County, however programmed via the for-profit Broadway Across America with splashy nationwide excursions of musicals simply off their New York City runs. The Hale, a neighborhood nonprofit, gives family-friendly comedies, musicals and different performs for suburban audiences.

Pioneer, additionally a nonprofit, mixes the present with the classics, and crowd-pleasers with more difficult fare. The corporate has scheduled musicals once nationwide excursions are finished and has snagged different performs — comparable to “Oslo” and “Sweat” — quickly when they’ve closed on Broadway.

“Different kinds of competition entering the market changes the way you need to think about doing business,” Azenberg stated. “It has been an opportunity for us to look at our programming and just shake it up a little bit. … If we do the same thing all the time, then you’re the same thing all the time.”

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)
(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Pioneer survived earlier festival from Broadway displays, she notes.

“The Eccles, it’s a new name, but there’s always been touring shows in Salt Lake City,” Azenberg stated, noting that productions of “Phantom of the Opera,” “The Book of Mormon” and “Les Misérables” had been all the rage after they performed the Capitol Theatre.

The April timing of the “Hamilton” run at the Eccles helped blunt the affect on Pioneer, she stated. It overlapped PTC’s manufacturing of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” however used to be over prior to PTC’s popular spring musical, “Mamma Mia!”

Pioneer even rode “Hamilton’s” coattails somewhat, staging a live performance model of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s previous musical, “In the Heights.”

“We were lucky, because it landed in a good time for us,” she added. “It wasn’t up against a big musical.”

Ticket sales for final season had been up from the 12 months prior to’s low, with 6,143 season tickets and 26,298 person tickets offered, most commonly on the power of musicals “Newsies,” “Bright Star” and “Mamma Mia!”

(Courtesy photograph) Mary Fanning Driggs (Rosie), left, Coleen Sexton (Donna) and Amy Bodnar (Tanya) carry out in Pioneer Theatre Company’s manufacturing of “Mamma Mia!”

That used to be up from 2016-17, when five,833 season tickets and 13,490 person tickets had offered.

Salt Lake County awarded Pioneer $557,526 in Zoo, Arts and Parks (ZAP) investment in line with the utility that had described that difficult season; this 12 months, PTC is projected to obtain extra, about $595,787.

Spreading the theater worm

Pioneer doesn’t give up the relatives target audience to Hale; it gives vacation displays and different programming to take a look at to attract households in.

PTC will finish its season subsequent May with the much-loved musical “Grease.” Its vacation providing, “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley,” is a tale spun from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

“I’m not averse to family-friendly options at all,” Azenberg stated. “For the Hale, that is their calling card. But that is just a portion of what we do.”

While some arts teams carry out the similar vacation displays once a year as a December money cow, “I really do think people look at Pioneer as the arts institution that doesn’t do that,” Azenberg stated. “So if you’re tired of ‘The Nutcracker,’ you’re tired of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ but you want to do something over the holidays, we will offer you something you haven’t seen before.”

Going to performs with their households can assist give younger other people the theater worm — rising them into the subsequent technology of ticket-buyers, she stated.

“If you’re able to impart that into your kids’ life, the likelihood is they’ll come back to it when their finances and schedule permits,” Azenberg stated.

The growing old demographics of theater audiences has “been an issue for 40 years. … It says something about the psychology of when people actually become theatergoers,” she stated.

“When my youngsters had been little, I went to the theater for paintings. [Otherwise] I didn’t cross to the theater or a film or out to dinner. You can simplest do such a lot if in case you have little toddlers and babysitters and schedules and football and ballet classes.

“Then there’s a shift. Your youngsters can keep house on my own, and there’s one thing you need to peer. Or there’s one thing you need to percentage together with your youngsters.”

PTC this 12 months began providing a bargain for theatergoers underneath 35, with half-price season tickets. (Technically, the bargain used to be lengthy introduced via the University of Utah Alumni Association to the public, however few other people knew about it.) So a ways, PTC says, 300 other people have taken benefit of it.

The different musicals in this season’s lineup are Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” — a grim story of homicide and meat pies that Hale turns out not likely to the touch — and the set-in-Ireland romance “Once,” which calls for actors to play their very own tools.

And it is going to be offering the royal shouting fit “The Lion in Winter” in January.

“Oslo” and “Sweat” have a problematic component for Salt Lake City audiences: They’re loaded with swear phrases.

“We try to be extremely respectful of what people are sensitive about, and put very extensive content warnings on our plays and musicals,” Azenberg stated. “I can’t have six shows that have strong language warnings. That’s just not practical.”

“Oslo,” now taking part in, is a harder promote than, say, “Grease.” It’s a just about three-hour drama — “two hours and 47 minutes,” Azenberg insists — about the behind-closed-doors negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians in 1993. But “you don’t have to understand the history of the Israeli and Palestinian relationship to appreciate and enjoy this play,” Azenberg stated.

“It’s really much more about if you throw two, four, 20 people in a room who don’t know each other and don’t like each other, how do they find commonality?” she stated. “And how do they realize they’re maybe not so far apart?”

Pioneer Theatre’s new season

  • The 2018-19 season of Pioneer Theatre Company kicks off with J.T. Rogers’ Tony Award-winning play “Oslo.”
  • Where • Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East, Salt Lake City
  • When • Plays via Sept. 29
  • Tickets • pioneertheatre.org

Here is the slate for Pioneer Theatre Company’s 2018-19 season:

  • Sept. 14-29 • “Oslo,” J.T. Rogers’ play about the 1993 negotiations in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.
  • Oct. 26-Nov. 10 • “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” Stephen Sondheim’s musical of a murderous barber.
  • Nov. 30-Dec. 15 • “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley,” a play via Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, a vacation romance spun off from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
  • Jan. Four-19 • “The Lion in Winter,” James Goldman’s play centering on Henry II and his spouse, Eleanor of Aquitaine.
  • Feb. 15-March 2 • “Once,” a musical in line with the Irish film a few Dublin busker and a Czech immigrant discovering romance via songs.
  • March 15-16 • A live performance efficiency of the musical “La Cage aux Folles.”
  • March 29-April 13 • “Sweat,” Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer-winning play about working-class other people in Reading, Pa.
  • May 10-25 • “Grease,” the loved musical about high-schoolers in the 1950s.

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