OSF increases ticket prices

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is raising ticket prices again for the coming season and has canceled its spring and fall value seasons for nonmembers.

OSF also has changed its brochure and Web site to say that a ticket's price "starts at" a particular amount. But when the season is in high gear, people who attend popular plays can expect to pay up to $16.50 more per ticket than the published price.

OSF still will offer a number of special deals, such as $20 C Section seats, $19.35 tickets during special promotions for young adults ages 19 through 35, and five Flexpass tickets for $99.

Despite a recession that began in December 2007, OSF has continued to raise ticket prices each year.

An A Section seat that cost $65.50 on a summer weekend in 2008 will cost $73.50 to $79 in 2011, depending on the play's popularity.

Two years ago, OSF introduced "dynamic pricing," also known as "demand pricing" in marketing circles. Under dynamic pricing, a ticket's price rises when demand to see a play is very strong, said OSF Marketing Manager Bob Hackett.

"We have a finite product with a finite number of seats, much like a hotel or an airline," he said.

For example, if a person wants to watch the popular musical "The Pirates of Penzance" on a summer weekend in 2011, that person is likely to pay a top price, he said.

On the flip side of dynamic pricing, if a play isn't popular, OSF is likely to offer discounts, Hackett said.

OSF members can get 40 percent discounts on tickets during spring and fall value seasons. Membership starts at $60.

Nonmembers previously could get 25 percent discounts during spring and fall, but OSF will not offer value season pricing for nonmembers in 2011, Hackett said.

Few nonmembers took advantage of value season discounts, he said.

On Dec. 1, OSF sent an e-mail to nonmembers who had used the value season discount in the past, offering to let them buy discounted tickets until Dec. 31.

There were few takers, Hackett said.

Although regular ticket prices have gone up, there will still be many ways for playgoers — especially locals — to enjoy performances for less, he said.

"The $20 C Section ticket prices are absolutely not changing," Hackett said. "We want to retain access points to the festival and have revenue generation at the same time.

"Locals will maintain the same Web, rush and $19.35 deals that they've always had," he added, referring to OSF's weekly Internet deals for people who have signed up for e-mail notification, discounted prices on remaining seats during the hour before a performance, and special $19.35 ticket offers for young adults. "A patron in the valley will continue to see incredible deals."

To receive discount offers by e-mail, people should register at www.osfashland.org, he said.

"If anyone has even a remote interest, it's worth signing up so we can send you special offers," he said.

OSF's $20 C Section seats sold out in 2010, so interested people should buy those early, Hackett said.

OSF began offering the $20 C Section seats in 2008, lowering the 2007 price of $36 for a summer weekend performance. Prices for all other sections have increased.

Hackett noted that providing deals costs money, so a person coming from San Francisco and paying full price is essentially underwriting discounts for others, while also supporting high-quality performances at OSF and educational programs.

Ticket sales provide 78 percent of OSF's budget, which is $29.1 million for 2011. Many other theaters recover only 50 percent of their costs through ticket sales, relying heavily on donations, Hackett said.

He said 75 percent of OSF's budget goes for personnel costs in the 400-person organization. People received raises this year.

Annual ticket price increases appear to have had little impact on OSF's popularity.

It closed out the 2009 season with record attendance and revenue figures, and broke new records for the 2010 season. Overall theater capacity was at 94 percent in 2010, with four of OSF's 11 plays selling at 98 to 100 percent capacity.

"In the middle of a recession, we continue to do extremely well. (Artistic Director) Bill (Rauch) has paid attention to creating good art, and marketing is creating access points for as many people as possible," Hackett said. "There are lots of different doors people use to come into us. There's not just one door."

He said that the marketing department has to maintain a delicate balance between generating revenue and maintaining access to plays.

"People will let us know how we're doing. So far, people are voting their support by coming to the plays, including local people," Hackett said.

Even after 2010's record-breaking season, he said pre-sales for 2011 are up 4 percent.

The coming season opens on Feb. 18 and runs through Nov. 6.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

Share This Story