After a strong summer for ticket sales, how will 2011 end up?

 

After a bad 2010, Live Nation says U.S. concert business has stabilized in 2011

Los Angeles Times' Company Town blog, 11/3/11

The live music business, which last year faced a crisis of audience apathy that resulted in empty seats and canceled engagements, has stabilized this year and is expected to remain healthy into 2012, said Michael Rapino, chief executive of Live Nation Entertainment, the nation's largest concert promoter and ticketing company. This year, Live Nation and other promoters have scaled back the number of shows, lowered prices for concerts in amphitheaters and trimmed ticketing fees. The strategy appears to have paid off so far. Although revenue was down 2.5% to $1.79 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 30, net income improved 1.4% to $51.7 million. More significantly, net income for the first nine months of the year rose to a $16.5-million profit, reversing a $104-million loss for the same period last year. "They clearly selected more profitable concerts this year," said David Joyce, an analyst with Miller Tabak in New York. "This demonstrates that, in good times or bad, people still go to at least one concert a year." For the fourth quarter, Live Nation said the NBA lockout could affect the estimated 700,000 pro basketball tickets it sells through its Ticketmaster business. A $10-million drop in revenue could result if the impasse between players and team owners ends in the cancellation of all games for the year. Looking ahead, Rapino said in a statement, "we believe the stabilization of consumer demand for live events will continue into 2012." Still, the entertainment giant is looking to grow its business by finding ways to reach "casual" fans. This year it set up an online discount service with Groupon to sell surplus tickets. It has also started to roll out ticketing kiosks at Wal-Mart stores. Collectively, the initiatives have sold a combined 1.5 million tickets through Sept. 30, Rapino said.

 

2011 movie ticket sales heading toward a record, despite economy

ibtimes.com, 10/17/11

Underscoring the notion that movies are recession-proof, U.S. and Canadian ticket sales are expected to finish nearly 5% higher than a year ago. Summer attendance was up 2.8%, though that was compared with last year's 13-year low, according to Hollywood.com. Premium charges for 3D films and slightly higher average ticket prices helped raise revenue. "If we keep at this pace, we should wind up with $4.5 billion," the highest summer total ever, said Paul Dergarabedian, box office analyst with Hollywood.com. The summer film season represents the most lucrative time of the year for studios, providing as much as 40% of annual box-office dollars. Still, year-to-date box office revenue is down 4% from 2010 while attendance has shrunk 5% after weak winter and spring ticket sales. Studios need a strong [winter] holiday season to regain lost ground at a time when the U.S. economy is sputtering. "Overall I think people are feeling good" about the summer results, said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Columbia Pictures. The strong summer box office belies recent data on consumer spending from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which showed that Americans spent less and saved more money in June, just as the summer season was moving into full swing. It also goes against concerns among economists about the possibility of a double-dip recession brought on by high unemployment and anemic economic growth. But moviegoing, which is one of the cheaper entertainment options for consumers, usually holds up in weak economies, industry players said. For instance, in summer 2008, the most recent comparable period to this summer in terms of the macro-economy, domestic box-office sales gained 0.5% year-over-year, though that was largely due to ticket price increases. Attendance actually fell 3.7% that summer.

Box-office success is tied more to the quality of the films than economic trends, Dergarabedian said. "Good movies are recession-proof," he said.

 

London's West End is on course for a 500 million box office hat-trick

Alistair Smith, The Stage [UK], 10/27/11

London's Theatreland looks set to break the 500 million mark for the third year in a row, with revenues during the summer up 5.6% on the same period in 2010. Theatre producers and owners suffered a difficult opening to the year -- box office revenue was down 6% between January and March. However, this picked up during the second quarter which was 2% up on the same period in 2010. That improvement has now been carried on into the third quarter. SOLT president Mark Rubinstein said improved results between July and September meant that box office revenue for the full year is on course to be in excess of 500 million for only the third time: "I think it's great news that we're continuing to see really strong West End sales. We've had some great new shows that have just opened to attract attention and some great new shows yet to come, which bodes well for the final quarter of the year. I think given the state of the economy and people's general nervousness, it's a testament to what the offering is and how it's being promoted and the fact that theatre is still a really popular form of entertainment." At the halfway point of 2011, box office was down 1.7% on the same period in 2010. At the end of the third quarter, it was up 0.76% on the first three quarters of the previous year. The third quarter itself was 5.6% up on the equivalent period in 2010.

 

Despite strong sales, UK dance venue warns: "too hard to predict consumer"

Sadler's Wells, the London dance theatre, has reported a strong year of ticket sales, but warns that financial pressures make it unlikely that some of the more experimental dance pieces for which it is famous will continue to be staged. The north London venue sold 705,971 tickets last year and staged 899 performances at its three main venues. Alistair Spalding, artistic director and chief executive, said: "We are in a very good place," but added: "The Peacock Theatre has experienced a bit more pressure ... and what we might not be able to do is the slightly more ambitious things." The Peacock Theatre, Sadler's Wells' satellite venue in London's theatre district, aims to appeal to a more West End audience. Sir David Bell, chairman, said: "This has not been the easiest time for any arts organisation but despite that we have...ridden the wave with healthy ticket sales and an increased output in shows. We are only too aware that the immediate future is very uncertain in the face of continuing problems in financial markets, which make it more than usually hard to predict consumer spending." One-fifth of Sadler's Wells' audience comes from abroad and more than a third of its audience is under age 35.  The company said in its annual report that the profile of dance had "risen immeasurably in a relatively short period of time given its prevalence in cinemas, on television and in performance spaces around the country".

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