The Playgoer: "Demographics of the B'way Audience"

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Demographics of the B'way Audience"

A good day for theatre market research buffs. The League has released their latest study of the Broadway audience for the 2006-2007 season. (That's June-May, fyi.) Gordon Cox provides a useful digest in Variety. Meanwhile, here's what I see as some standout stats so far:

  • About 2/3rds (65%) of the B'way audience are from outside the NYC area. (As per recent trends.)
  • About 2/3rds (64%) of the B'way audience are women. Plus, adds Cox: "women remain the major decisionmakers when it comes to ticket buying." Make of that what you will.
  • Survey boasts an all-time high in non-white attendance: 26%! People are saying this may have something to do with The Color Purple. But we also shouldn't be surprised that as the population as a whole becomes less white (and not necessarily more black, but also Latino, Middle Eastern and Asian), so does the audience for popular middlebrow entertainment, no matter how expensive.
  • The average B'way attendee got a whole year younger. (41.2 yrs old.) Some say this might have something to do with the perfect storm of Wicked, Mary Poppins, Legally Blonde, and Spring Awakening.
  • The average annual household income of the audience has gone down(!) to $98,900. (From just over $100,000 last year.) I'm not sure what to make of this actually. Note that's not saying every seat encases someone making 6 figures. If you think of it as family income then you can imagine a husband and wife making 50 grand each. If that's the case, then this is encouraging. Then again, god knows how they afford those 3-figure tickets!
  • Plays vs Musicals: Here's some surprises. People who go to musicals see on average four a year. People who go to plays (on B'way, mind you) see seven. Do they even produce seven plays on Broadway anymore?.... Also, less surprisingly, critics still matter for plays. But for musicals "word of mouth" was cited as a bigger influence on show-selection.
  • 35% of respondents answered Yes to changing the 8:00 curtain time. Most preferred earlier. Make it so, Lords of the League. Make it so.
  • And my favorite random item: "38% of respondents said they arrived at the theatre by foot, implying that they either lived or worked nearby, or were staying in an area hotel." So I'm alone in fighting my way through the NYC transit system?!

Finally, what to make of this statement by League prez Charlotte St. Martin:
“With our goal to make Broadway a stronger national brand, we do believe that the increased attendance from visitors to New York City reflects that these efforts are working. And a stronger national brand will not only assist the New York City Broadway audience, but all of the shows that are touring throughout the country.”
Say what? I'm not quite sure what is meant by "assist" here. Does she mean that a "strong national brand" makes theatre more prosperous and thus able to give New Yorkers what they want, too, in addition to the Disney fare for the tourists? "Assist" us in allowing more ticket discounts? Or does this just mean...nothing. Empty PR gobbledygook.

The "national brand" meme has been floated in League statements before and has become a mantra for St. Martin in particular. So watch for it.


Gil said...

Some say this might have something to do with the perfect storm of Wicked, Mary Poppins, Legally Blonde, and Spring Awakening.

Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha!

HA ha ha ha ha ha!



Playgoer said...

Sorry, I meant to also include the League's statement of its methodology in the survey. The sampling, for the record, was about 5,000 people.

"From June 2006 through June 2007, the League’s Research Department administered surveys at 23 different productions at 72 individual performance times. Shows were selected on a quarterly basis to represent what Broadway was offering that season (i.e., a proportionate number of musicals versus straight plays; revivals versus original works; and new productions versus long-running shows). Questionnaires were distributed at multiple performances per show to account for variances in the weekday, weekend, evening and matinee audiences. Completed questionnaires were tabulated and weighted based upon the actual paid attendance for each show. In total, 10,800 questionnaires were distributed and 5,109 were returned, representing a 47.3% rate of return."

Any statisticians out there have a problem with that?