DPAC Tops new POLLSTAR numbersJuly 31, 2012
By Cliff Bellamy - The Herald Sun
DURHAM – The Durham Performing Arts Center hit another milestone Monday. Pollstar Magazine, which covers the concert industry, ranked DPAC No. 1 in ticket sales among reporting theaters in the United States.
The numbers, released in this week’s edition, are for the first six months of 2012. The figures are for theaters of similar size to DPAC, which has about 2,800 seats, said Suzanne Golden, head of Golden Relations, which helps with marketing for DPAC.
In previous Pollstar rankings, DPAC had been in the top five for ticket sales.
Later this week, Billboard Magazine will report that DPAC ranks No. 3 in gross ticket sales among venues with seats of 5,000 and under, DPAC reported Monday.
The theater also reported that 417,180 guests attended 200 performances during the 2011-2012 season. A total of 67 performances for the season sold out. Shows with the highest attendance were the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” (77,300 people attending) and the return engagement of “Wicked” (82,000 people attending).
Other top artists who led in attendance for the season were rock band Steely Dan in the concerts category, Daniel Tosh in comedy, and “Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots” in special events.
Last week, Pollstar reported that DPAC was No. 2 among 100 theaters worldwide in attendance. (The Carolina Theatre also made that list at No. 88.)
The city owns the theater, which is managed by Nederlander and Professional Facilities Management. The $44 million theater opened in late 2008, when the mortgage crisis and higher gasoline prices first began to take their toll on the national economy.
DPAC has succeeded in spite of a continuing flat economy and higher unemployment. In the first year, it reported attendance of 250,000, and the $401,000 the city earned during that first season was four times what was expected.
Observers who follow downtown Durham redevelopment attributed the theater’s continuing success to the quality of its shows, service and management. “Certainly they are a superior facility,” said Shelly Green, president and CEO of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau. “If you just look at the building itself and the way it’s put together, it’s wonderful.” She called their service “legendary,” which encourages visitors to want to return. The theater also draws a good mix of out-of-town visitors and day visitors, Green said.
Total spending by DPAC visitors for the season was $49.1 million, an increase of about 13 percent over the 2010-11 season’s $43.3 million total, according to figures from the visitors bureau. The amount spent on food was $13.3 million, or 27 percent of the total, according to the bureau. The figures do not include spending by Durham residents attending DPAC. Spending by visitors represented $2.4 million in tax revenue, according to the DCVB.
DPAC also benefits from Durham’s and the surrounding area’s economic diversity, which shields it to some extent when recessions hit. “We fared better than the rest of North Carolina and the rest of the country in these tough economic times,” said Bill Kalkhof, president of Downtown Durham Inc. The area has residents “who have the funds available for entertainment, and they’re seeking good entertainment,” he said. “It’s a great theater, with a great management team dedicated to great customer service.”
DPAC’s continued success, while attributable to many factors, also is “a signal of the overall strength of the economy in the Triangle,” said Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield. What also impresses him and other city officials is the diversity of artists who perform at the facility to well-packed houses. “The response has been pretty remarkable,” Bonfield said. “Even PFM/Nedelander say they find that remarkable about this market.”
Along with the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, American Tobacco and other public projects, DPAC is part of an ongoing plan for downtown redevelopment. Kalkhof attributed part of the renewed interest in renovating the SunTrust tower into a luxury hotel to the presence of DPAC. The company 21c Museum Hotels, which wants to develop the building, “would not have been knocking on our door to develop the Hill Building without DPAC,” he said.