For those in the theater industry who long have followed the late Danny Newman's "Subscribe Now!" mantra to build loyal subscribers rather than fickle single ticket buyers, the latest research from the Theatre Communications Group should make sobering reading.
At least where non-profit American theaters are concerned, it is not working so well anymore.
According to Theatre Facts 2010, the annual research snapshot released by the TCG lobbying and support organization, subscription income is dropping at American theaters at an alarming rate.
Between 2006 and 2010, the report (released Monday) says, national subscription income dropped by an eye-catching 15.1%. Some 14% fewer subscripion tickets were sold and the closely watched subscriber base dropped by 15%.
Overall attendance also fell, slightly. The decline was 3.6%, although the study notes that attendance went up for workshops, skeletal productions and the like. Theaters, the study notes, have cut costs by an average of 2.6%, no doubt in response to these numbers and also to the decline in philanthropic giving (contributed income fell during the period of the study by 5.2 percent).
Interestingly, single-ticket income rose modestly during each of the years in the study. And between 2006 and 2010, the number of single-ticket buyers rose by 3%. Most theaters report a positive change in unrestricted net assets, growth that the study attributes to the rising price of a single ticket.