Vice President, Media & Public Relations
June 9, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(PORTLAND, Ore.) – The Oregon Symphony wrapped up its 2007-08 concert season on Saturday by posting its best box-office results in years, including double-digit increases in ticket sales revenue and average concert attendance.
For the entire season, which began Sept. 22 with a performance by piano legend Van Cliburn and concluded Saturday with a solo appearance by the no-less-legendary comedienne Lily Tomlin, the Oregon Symphony sold $5.64 million in tickets, 15.6 percent more than the prior season.
It was the orchestra’s best year at the box office since 2001-02 and the first time it exceeded $5 million in ticket sales since the final days of the 2003-04 concert season.
The good news is especially significant because it marks an emphatic end to five consecutive years of declining ticket sales.
“Our financial viability depends on the support of our community, which is most easily demonstrated at the box office,” said Oregon Symphony Association President Elaine Calder. “Our funders, individual donors and sponsors want to see that our programs are attracting a broad cross-section of the ticket-buying public. It is tremendously important to us that we continue to rebuild our audiences. With 2,780 seats, the Schnitz (Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall) is a big performance space, but we have no trouble filling it when we offer appealing programs and artists – both classical and popular. And next year promises to continue the turn-around we’ve experienced this season.”
Over the course of the season, the orchestra sold 7,878 more tickets than it did the year before. But because the orchestra presented 79 performances at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall this season – six fewer than last year – that translates to a 14.2 percent increase in average paid attendance. At a typical performance, there were 215 more paying patrons in attendance, with an average paid attendance of 1,727 people.
The most popular performances of the season – at the box office, at least – were Cliburn’s September appearance with the orchestra, which drew a paid attendance equal to 98.5 percent of the concert hall’s capacity; the 90th birthday concert of Laureate Associate Conductor Norman Leyden in October, at 96.2 percent; and the closing concert of the Classical series in May, at which Music Director Carlos Kalmar led three performances of Carl Off’s Carmina burana in front of crowds that averaged 94.3 percent of capacity.
Other smash hits among ticket buyers included the final “Inside the Score” concert of the season in May, an in-depth exploration of the Beethoven Seventh Symphony led by Resident Conductor Gregory Vajda, with paid attendance of 86.9 percent, and the appearances of Eartha Kitt in February and Lily Tomlin in June, both at about 85 percent.
But the good news doesn’t end there. Early indications are that the orchestra’s increased popularity with ticket buyers extends to next season at well, with total ticket sales for the 2008-09 concert season recently passing $3.4 million, a substantial increase over sales figures from the same time last year.
Aside from the box office, highlights of the just-concluded season included the announcement in April that the Oregon Symphony and Kalmar had agreed to a four-year extension of Kalmar’s contract as Music Director, through the end of the 2012-13 season.
Critics have taken note of marked increases in the artistic quality of the orchestra’s performances as well. David Stabler, classical music critic of The Oregonian, wrote in April that fans have watched the orchestra “transform itself from dull to dynamic since Kalmar took the podium five years ago.” Later that month, a review of the orchestra’s interpretation of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in the same newspaper termed the concert “the most intensely focused and, in the end, the most magnificent” of the season.
The Oregon Symphony’s 2008-09 concert season begins with two free outdoor concerts of popular music Aug. 23 in Portland’s Mt. Scott Park and Aug. 28 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park downtown. The orchestra returns to the concert hall Sept. 5 for the opening event of Portland’s Time-Based Art Festival – and one of its most unusual collaborations ever, a concert at which the Oregon Symphony shares the stage with gender-bending pop stars Antony and the Johnsons and conductor-composer Nico Muhly. The 2008-09 Classical series opens Sept. 27-29 with Kalmar leading the orchestra in another sure crowd-pleaser: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Complete details on the 2008-09 season are available on the orchestra’s web site, www.orsymphony,org.