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Touring shows hit bumpy road

Sales down for 2005-06 season

Ticket sales for Broadway road shows over the 2005-06 season were down when compared with tickets purchased the prior season, according to the report on the road audience demo released every other year by the League of American Theaters & Producers.

The good news: The average ticketbuyers got younger, and the percentage of under-18 theatergoers rose.

Road shows sold 17.1 million tickets and brought in $915 million in revenue, down from the strong 2004-05 season when 18.2 million tickets were sold. Over a year dotted with commercial disappointments such as “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Bombay Dreams” and “Little Women,” net receipts for 2005-06 fell more than 15%.

But the auds that did turn out tended to look a little more youthful. The average theatergoer age fell five years from the 2003-04 season, down to 46. Audience members under the age of 18 rose from 3% to 5%, while the percentage of senior citizens buying tickets, 12.3%, was the lowest since 1991.

Success of family fare is likely one reason for the age dip, with pitched-at-all-ages tuners such as “Wicked,” “The Lion King” and “Annie” among the shows participating in the League’s research.

Only 33% of those responding to the League’s questionnaire were subscribers to a multiple-show season, the lowest percentage in eight years. That falloff corresponds to the dip in average age, since older patrons are more likely to subscribe.

And with fewer subscribers committed to a string of shows in a subscription series, the average number of shows per year seen by tour auds fell to 5.8, as opposed to 6.7 over the 2003-04 season.

Overall, there were few surprises in the report. As usual, the majority of theatergoers on the road tended to be middle-aged, female (72.6%), white (85.2%), well off (with income averaging $92,200) and well educated (with 69% holding at least a college degree).

Also unsurprising was the finding that the Internet plays an increased role in theatergoing, especially for theatergoers under 50. Online purchasing has become the most popular way to buy a ticket, with 28% of all tickets bought on the Web. Around 20% of tickets were bought at the box office, and about 14% over the phone.

Thirty-seven percent of under-50s purchased tickets on the Web, vs. 19% of those older than 50. And overall, 34% of patrons got information from a venue’s Web site and 17% from other sites, as opposed to 27% and 10% two seasons earlier.

Internet advertising is increasingly effective, especially for younger auds, although TV ads continued to be most influential with ticketbuyers in general. Forty-six percent of them reported being influenced by TV commercials, vs. 18% each for local newspaper ads and online ads.

Road shows, of course, are inextricably tied to Broadway. Of people attending road productions, 22% of them had seen a Broadway show in New York in the last year.

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