15,000 seat Opera Houses & The Avengers VS La Traviata

The Dallas Opera at the Cowboy Stadium!

Actually, the Dallas Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas, seats up to 80,000 (and up to 100,000 for special events).  On Saturday April 28, 2012 it seated approximately 15,000 Opera fans for a live simulcast performance of The Dallas Opera’s production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

The stadium hosts a state of the art HD video board which is apparently the largest in the world:

Hanging approximately 90 feet above the field from the roof structure, the innovative video center spans between the 20-yard lines and features four individual boards- two facing the sidelines, 160 feet wide and 72 feet tall, and two facing the end zones, 53 feet wide and 30 feet tall, totaling over 25,000 square feet of display area other in the world, a center-hung video board.

The video board, weighing approximately 600 tons, is what the audience viewed the simulcast.  The initial ticket requests (tickets were free and presented by The Dallas Foundation) reached 33,000 and had the attendee number topped the 32,000 mark this event would have surpassed the San Francisco Opera‘s Opera at the [AT&T] Ballpark production of Verdi’s “Aida” in 2010.

This is an example of how to build an economy of scale.  Which technology finally advancing to the point where broadcasts  live productions become easily feasible as well as presentable in a mass audience context.  Another example is one I’ve brought up in previous posts here–live broadcasting of live events!

As of the end of this season, the Metropolitan Opera has finally reached the 10 million tickets sold mark for Live HD casts of their productions.  The season finale, Verdi’s “La Traviata,” reached 1500 theaters in over 40 countries to an estimated audience of a quarter million.  The North American gross was $2.4 million.

While this may seem like a small amount, especially given that the current top

Marvel Comics, “The Avengers”

cinematic block-buster, The Avengers, has already passed the billion dollar mark, we do have to keep it in perspective that the Met HD casts are one showing per event (encore broadcasts sometimes happen during the summer or later in the season) rather than multiple showings over a several week period.

If we look at The Avengers opening weekend, which is a record high of $207,438,708 (plus Midnight showings) then divide that by the three days in the weekend and we get an average of $69,146,236 per day.  Given that there are multiple showings on any given day–let’s say an average of 4 (which won’t take into account a theater may show the film on multiple screens) and divide then we come to a less monsterous number for comparison–$17,286,559.

This is surely an overestimate but at the same time, The Avengers did open in 4,349 while the Met’s “La Traviate” only showed in 1500.  So if we’re to take the average per screen, we’d have to divide the gross by the number of theaters. $2.4 million (which is only the North American gross) divided by 1500 theaters is $1600 per screen.  $17,286,559 divided by 4,349 theaters is (rounded up) $3,975 per screen.

Met Opera’s production of Verdi’s “La Traviata”

Think of the implications of this comparison–The Avengers is currently the biggest blockbuster of the year, and could quite possibly become one of the top three grossing blockbusters of all time (after Avatar and The Titanic).  With only the North American gross, the Met’s “La Traviata” made only a little less than half the amount per screen.

Does this mean the Met HD casts could achieve the same heights of the average blockbuster movie?  Not likely–it’s unclear that multiple showings of the live HD cast could have the same kind of draw that the initial livecast has.  This doesn’t mean that there could be an even great economy of scale created by increasing (a little bit) the number of showings.  But technically these re-showings wouldn’t be a live-cast of the event, so wouldn’t necessarily count strictly as an economy of scale for the purposes of increasing revenue for a single event (not that this wouldn’t help generate revenue).  Increasing the number of theaters in which livecasts are shown would do that for the purposes of the singular benchmark event.

The point is, so much of the usage of this technology by performing arts organizations is behind the times of what has already been done in the Popular Entertainment industries of sports and pop music.  But knowing that U2 didn’t turn a profit during their 2009 360° tour; that Lady Gaga can bankrupt herself to the tune of $3 million during her 2011 Monster Ball tour; and that ticket revenue doesn’t usually cover Sports Teams Operating Costs which is why TV Licensing and Corporate Sponsorship is crucial for covering the shortfall.

Ironically, the “Admission of Price” piece linked above talks about how ticket sales are the “bread and butter” of income for sports teams while those critics in the classical music industry (where a similar ratio of performance-to-non-performance revenue exists) will call it a “shortfall.”

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