Survey exposes Off B’way auds

Off Broadway theater generates $ 92 million in audience spending, according to a survey of audiences released Monday by the Alliance of Resident Theaters/New York. The research is the first look at the Off Broadway audience in more than a decade.

At a City Hall press conference Monday, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani — flanked by ART/New York execs and veteran Off Broadway and TV actor Stephen Collins — applauded Off Broadway’s contribution to New York’s “quality of life,” one of the catch phrases of his 1993 campaign.

“The majority of people moving to New York City cite the variety of cultural attractions as a major motivation to that move,” the mayor said. “Theater is a very vital part of New York City, centering it as the cultural capital of the world. It is also a very strong part of the city’s economic base.”

Connecting art and commerce has been a persistent theme of the mayor’s, and so far in his young administration, artists have been willing to go along with it in exchange for a moment in the spotlight. The $ 92 million figure is an extrapolation, based on attendance of about 3 million, which includes such extra-theatrical expenditures as transportation and restaurants.

The mayor noted that attendance at Off Broadway shows last year was greater than the combined attendance at New York Mets and Yankees games.

According to the study, the average Off Broadway theatergoer attends nine performances a year, is white, college-educated, lives in Manhattan and has a combined household income of $ 63,400. The study further suggests that for Off Broadway to grow, it must target more racially and culturally diverse theatergoers who may have lower household incomes, live outside Manhattan, and have young children in the home. The study suggested that Off Broadway play up its competitive strengths: affordable prices, intimacy of experience, entertainment value, accessibility and safety of theater locations and availability of parking.

The press conference was timed to kick off the fourth annual Passports to Off Broadway campaign, offering up to 50% off ticket prices for more than 150 shows at some 90 New York theaters.

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