NEW YORK — In one of the most comprehensive studies ever undertaken by the Broadway and Off Broadway communities, the Theater Development Fund has released a study that points to interesting and alarming trends in theater attendance with respect to international visitors, younger attendees and racial makeup.
The report, based on research conducted by Gotham-based Audience Research and Analysis during the 1997 theater season, found that the proportion of international visitors at Broadway performances jumped from 7.4% to 12.9% in 1997.
Leading the pack of internationals was Brazil, followed by Germany, Canada and Japan.
Most disturbing is the decrease in young people’s attendance of plays, despite the growth overall of that demographic’s attendance of theater.
The overall 18-year-old and younger audience has grown significantly since 1991, when it accounted for 7% of the audience, to 10.5% in 1997. What is alarming, however, is that while 12.8% of the audiences for musicals falls into the 18-and-under category, only 1.1% of the audience of plays is represented by that age group.
For auds 25 years of age and younger, the figures aren’t any better. While 25.2% attended musicals, only 6.4% attended plays.
Finally, the study confirmed what other reports by the League of American Theaters and Producers found: A high number of its audience is Caucasian. It found that a large number of the Broadway aud, 87.1%, is white. And while the Great White Way is still very white, Off Broadway is even whiter — 89.1%.
The report recommended more school and youth theater programs, country-specific marketing programs, and foreign language synopses of plays to be distribbed at theaters.