Report finds higher advanced ticket sales

International ticket sales for Broadway shows dipped slightly last season, but advance purchases rose.

Those were among the trends logged by the Broadway League in a study of Rialto demographics in the 2007-08 season.

Survey found that average theatergoer age was 41.5 years, about on par with previous years. But last season repped the highest percentage (12.4%) of children or teens on the Rialto in 30 years, which the League trumpets as a promising sign for building an audience base that learns to go to theater at young age.

Also among the findings: Ticket buyers paid an average of $27 per ticket more than face value, and legit critics still have the power to sell tickets to Broadway plays.

International visitors bought 1.88 million tickets for Broadway shows (or 15.3% of the season’s cumulative tally) last season, down from the prior season’s tally of 1.9 million (15.5%) — a small drop probably prompted by the gradual strengthening of the dollar.

As has been true since the 2002-03 season, domestic tourists accounted for nearly half of all Broadway auds, with Gotham residents making up 16.8% of purchases and New York suburbanites accounting for 18.7%. Total attendance for the season came to 12.27 million.

In one of the report’s more unexpected findings, advance ticket sales — which have dwindled dramatically since 2001 thanks in part to the rise of Internet purchasing — climbed.

Thirty-nine percent of ticketbuyers purchased ducats more than one month in advance, vs. 32% for the three prior seasons. Same-day sales fell to 20% from 27% for the previous two seasons.

That’s good news for producers, for whom advance sales traditionally provide an ongoing prognosis of a show’s future fiscal health.

Meanwhile, amid recurring discussions about the declining influence of legit criticism, critics remained an important factor for play sales. Reviews were the top-cited influence that induced ticketbuyers to go see a play, although the percentage of those who followed critical recommendations was still down from the prior season.

And for musical auds, reviews are a distant second to word-of-mouth, cited as the convincing factor for more than 50% of musical-goers.

The Internet remained the most popular way to buy a ticket. Forty percent of ducats sold were bought online, while 22% of theatergoers went to the box office and less than 10% of them purchased over the phone.

Much of the report’s data remained similar to previous seasons. Women, as usual, made up the majority of auds, and last season made up the highest percentage (65.9%) recorded in the past two decades.

Besides being female, auds also were mostly white (75%), well-educated (74% with college degrees) and wealthy (median annual income of $148,000).

The typical ticketbuying decision- maker was a 43.2-year-old woman who had attended five Broadway shows in the past year.

For the first time, theatergoers’ zip codes were recorded. The largest percentages came from nearby areas including New York state, New Jersey and Gotham itself, although areas of California (including Los Angeles), Florida, Michigan and the Washington, D.C., environs also ranked in the top 25.

Data was compiled from surveys handed out at a variety of Broadway productions and curtain times. In all 14,000 questionnaires were distributed and 7,600 were returned.

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