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Theater Ticket Sales Rise as Audiences Seek Escapism and Community

Ticket roll A reevaluation of our money-spending priorities has been a major theme for the last couple of years. "What do I need?" and "What keeps me happy?" are two of the guiding questions. The stereotype for a recession depression is one of people drowning away their sorrows in gloomy bars or letting loose in clubs, recklessly throwing their cares to the wind.

However, new statistics seem to show the opposite. Many people have cut back on activities such as eating out and nights on the town, and instead ticket sales for entertainment such as film and theater have risen in both the U.S. and U.K.

On the West End in London, a new report shows that theater sales have actually gone up from late 2008 to late 2010, with as much as five percent of regular patrons planning on attending the theater more frequently. In recent weeks, The Lion King and Wicked have broken box office records, perpetuating the trend set in 2009 when the theater district made a record £500 million. Woe to the pubs and clubs, where between 35-43 percent of patrons have been cutting their spending.

A research report published by market analysis company Mintel states:

"The performing arts benefit from the same prevailing trends as cinema, in that they are perceived as a way of escaping from the tyranny of value, cutting back and saving. As long as they continue to offer good perceived value for money, there is no reason why they cannot continue to trade successfully throughout difficult economic times while other sectors struggle."

Recently in New York, after a surprising number of very short runs on Broadway, the New Year has brought with it a new spirit of theatergoing enthusiasm: Wicked, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, The Lion King, The Merchant of Venice, In the Heights, and Jersey Boys have all reported box office receipts of over $1 million.

While many New Yorkers have cut down on eating out, NYC museums are welcoming an influx of attendess. The Natural History Museum had a record high during the past two years, and the Children’s Museum and the Guggenheim have seen an increase between 2% and 5%.

Having money has just as interesting an effect on the way people behave as not having money. A 2009 study by Kathleen Vohs, a consumer psychologist at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, revealed that without the insulation of money, people are more drawn to be part of groups instead of toughing out their troubles individually. Culture and entertainment have always been two prominent forms of cultural communication and unity. This goes hand-in-hand with the running theme of escapism during the recession. Since it is better find an escape in community and art then in the bottom of a glass, a place with an embracing atmosphere is logically where more people want to go.

-- Annelise Bianchini

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