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Oz industry goes public

Australian Entertainment Industry Assn. releases ticketing info

SYDNEY Reporting grosses and ticket sales for live entertainment in Australia has always been hit-and-miss, with industryites inclined to look enviously at Broadway’s transparent system.

That changed in early June — somewhat.

The Australian Entertainment Industry Assn. released ticketing information for 2004 and will now report quarterly on the industry’s activities. AEIA prexy Andrew Kay says producers “can put your hand on your heart and say (these figures) are deadly accurate.”

Previously, producers could publicize whatever figures suited their cause at any given time.

While that might have bolstered flagging shows and prodded the occasional investors to open their wallets, it also undermined the industry’s desire to be taken seriously.

“We can now measure the growth, vitality and use the information for presenting cases to government,” Kay says.

Already the figures are illuminating. The state-run Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated total box office in 2002-03 at A$332 million ($253 million), but the AEIA’s figures put gross box office for 2004 at more than double that, $526 million.

“Their survey really was missing a whole subsector of the industry,” says Kay, who still believes regional Australia is under-represented by the AEIA’s figures.

Contemporary music proved to be the industry’s big earner, with $149 million from 2.5 million tickets sold last year. Summer is the season for staging concerts; $106 million in tickets were sold between October and March.

Musical theater producers now have evidence that January-through-March and October-through-December are the best months to launch shows, with 1 million tickets sold during those periods, compared with 800,000 during other months. The sector grossed $106 million in a strong year, due largely to the endurance of “The Lion King” in Sydney and solid launch of “The Producers” in Melbourne.

Straight theater registered the third-highest number of tickets sold, 2.2 million for $70 million gross.

Overall, Australians bought 12.5 million tickets to live entertainment, remarkable in a population of 20 million.

The cost of tabulating the information is shared across the industry and has been kept low through the use of limited ticketing agencies as collection points. U. of Queensland is managing the data collation.

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