Thoughts on ticket prices

BLT is always looking at its ticket pricing.  BLT has struggled hard not to raise ticket prices for years.  Costs and BLT’s rent keep going up.  But BLT strives to make tickets affordable.  There is $7 Sunday, Date Night, discounts for being on BLT’s mailing list, plus being an usher gets you a free ticket.  So BLT does what it can to help those who find its ticket prices too steep.

It has been suggested that BLT make all of its shows pay what you can.  That is, have no ticket prices at all.  Is that possible?  Ticket prices do not pay the costs of shows, even now.  BLT depends upon the kindness and generosity of its donors to cover all of its overhead and some of the show costs.

Would the donors be willing to pay another $50,000 to cover what tickets earn?  Would those who get in for free or next to free then become donors to help others see better live theater?  Would having more “sell outs” mean there are more people who then become donors?

Certainly free tickets should put more people in the seats.  Theater is always better when there is an audience and the bigger the audience the better.

Free tickets might get more younger people and those who do not normally see theater into see a show.  Those are two demographics every theater seeks.  Younger people because they are the future of theater.  Those who do not usually see theater are the holy grail, they are where theater can grow.

But would people think the shows were not worth anything if BLT didn’t charge anything to see them?  The “its worth what if costs” effect.

Even now BLT lowers its ticket prices to the Bill and Peggy Hunt Playwrights Festival to $10, but that does not necessarily mean twice as many tickets are sold.  In fact the Festival often sells fewer tickets than other main stage shows.  Would free tickets mean more or fewer people in the seats?

BLT already has a few strikes against it.  It is in the suburbs, yes just 15-20 minutes from downtown with free parking, but you would think it was in Nebraska.  BLT also has “Little” in its name.  That means either it does kids shows or puts anyone on stage.  Neither is true.  The Hi-Liners do kids shows, and they do a good job at that.  BLT cannot see it would compete for that audience.  As for actors, we draw from the same pool as do the theaters in Seattle.  Yes, some of BLT’s actors are from Burien, but is because they are good enough to excel in open auditions, not just because they are from Burien.  BLT also has as good, if not better, production values than theaters downtown.  Just take of look at some of BLT’s shows.

Would free tickets spell the doom of BLT?  Or would it open doors yet to be opened?

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3 Responses to Thoughts on ticket prices

  1. craig says:

    I think that part of the charm of free tickets is that they’re worth something. That might not seem to make any sense, but if all tickets are free, I think that people will inevitably assume that it’s not worth seeing. As someone who pays for shows he doesn’t work on, I view the free tickets volunteers get for working on a show are another way of saying “thank you” for the work they do. Plus, it’s just as much trouble to travel to Burien whether the show is free or not.

    While I’d hate to see prices become much higher than they are now, charging for tickets really does have an effect on the value we perceive them to have. Plus, even though they’ don’t cover the cost of a theatre season, ticket sales do help make ends meet.

  2. Carol Shaw says:

    I wonder if the discounts may be too confusing. I think one standard price of $10 for an adult, with $8 for seniors and students, would be reasonable and give a sense of value.

    • eric says:

      From the editor: Tickets priced at $10 and $8 would mean BLT donors would have to donate another $20,000 plus for BLT to earn as much as it does from current ticket sales. The question is, will the donors step up to that size of a need?

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