Tourists Take Broadway

International visitors in particular account for an increasingly large percentage of Main Stem ticket purchases, according to a new report

Tourist biz, an increasingly dominant force on Broadway in recent years, hit a high-water mark last season, with out-of-town visitors accounting for a whopping 66% of all ticket sales during the 2012-13 sesh.

International tourism in particular hit record numbers, making up 22.5% of all purchases, and achieved a high of 2.6 million admissions. That reflects a growing tide of tourism to the city overall, with a record 11 million visitors from abroad visiting Gotham in 2012, according to NYC & Company.

The Broadway numbers, released as part of the Broadway League’s annual study of audience demographics, reflect trends that have been shifting the focus of Main Stem economics for a number of years now. Trailblazing megahits including current, 26-year-old “The Phantom of the Opera” established an early model for legit properties to become long-running, internationally prominent titles with outposts all over the world, paving the way for productions such as “The Lion King” and “Wicked” also to become globally recognized brands that benefit at home from a greater appeal to international visitors.

It’s domestic tourists as well as international ones that sustain the long Broadway runs of such shows, which, as large-scale tuners with a high razzle-dazzle quotient, tend to turn the heads of non-locals far more than plays do. Domestic visitors hailing from beyond New York City and its suburbs made up 43.5% of purchases.

Suburbanites, both in terms of percentages and raw numbers, saw a notable dip, falling from 2.41 million (in 2011-12) to 1.97 million, or 19.5% to 17.1% of each season’s respective overall attendance (also down last season from the season prior). Part of that decline could be attributable to the fallout from Hurricane Sandy, a hypothesis supported by the fact that the biggest suburbanite declines in the season were reported over the fall and winter — the immediate aftermath of the superstorm.

City visitors to Broadway were also down, although less significantly, from 2.11 million in 2011-12 to 1.97 million, the lowest tally in nearly a decade.

The tourism figures were only one element in a report filled with numbers that were largely unsurprising when held alongside results from recent years. The average Broadway ticketbuyer, for instance, continued to be a white, well-educated female in her early 40s and hailing from a well-off household. Average age came in at 42.5 years old last season, down a year from the previous frame. Once again there wasn’t much racial diversity, although purchases by Hispanic auds upticked to 7.6% of all attendances (from 6% the previous season) while black auds were notably down from 5.5% to 3.5%.

In keeping with the new media age, Internet sales accounted for more than 40% of all ticket sales, the highest percentage of any ticketbuying method including box office (17.9%) and the TKTS Booth (16.3%). Mobile sales, however, have barely moved the needle, not even accounting for 1% of all purchases.

Word-of-mouth — of the old-fashioned variety as well as the digital kind — remains the most influential factor in spurring ticket sales for both musicals and plays, while familiarity with a title or a catalog of music can influence sales for tuners and print critics still hold some sway over playgoing auds, who tend to be older-skewing, old-media types.

Only 23% of theatergoers said they were compelled to buy a ticket because of some form of advertisement. Of those auds, TV ads were most often cited as the factor that caused them to pull the trigger on a purchase, while TV and radio spots with footage or recordings from the show were generally pegged as the most influential, over ads touting, for instance, critics’ quotations or audience testimonials.

For this year’s annual survey (running from June 2012 to June 2013), the League handed out about 12,000 questionnaires of which 5,781 were returned. Auds were surveyed at 34 titles included “Evita,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” “Golden Boy,” “Jersey Boys” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

 

 

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