Stratford, Shaw attendance still off, but tide is turning

Canada’s major theater festivals, Stratford and Shaw, have posted declining attendance figures for the 2009 season despite strong late-season rallies at the B.O.

Recession fears, declining tourism and confusion over new passport requirements for U.S. residents traveling to and from Canada led to a nearly 20% dcline in advance bookings for both fests.

Fortunately, strong reviews for many shows and a Canadian government marketing initiative helped turn the tide, meaning Stratford wound up only 4.5% down (532,000 admissions in 2008 to 509,200 this year) while Shaw showed a 6.5% drop (from 281,000 to 253,000).

Stratford’s big draws were its two musicals, “West Side Story” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Top crowd-puller for the Shaw fest was classic Garson Kanin comedy “Born Yesterday.”

While there’s no word as to Shaw’s year-end bottom line, Stratford predicts that it will end up in the black due to conservative budgeting.

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