EDITORIAL: Where’s my Concession?

[by Matt Baker]

In the first half of this year, I saw two plays that had one ticket price: adult – $25.00. It was the maximum ticket price that the venue in which these shows were performed allows, due to their want of maintaining the cost of theatre to their patrons at a reasonable amount, and $25.00 is perfectly reasonable – both were full-length plays, had two acts, were performed in the main stage of the venue, and had casts of 6 and 5 respectively. The issue I had, however, was the lack of concession price tickets.

Commerce concession is defined as being a reduction in the usual price of a ticket granted to a special group of customers, but how do we define these ‘special’ customers? The most common concessions are for students and senior citizens (65+), which makes sense. Student concessions are common for movies tickets, public transport, flights, power bills, clothes, food, stationary, etc., why not for theatre as well?

The justification for senior citizen concessions is also evident. Depending on your circumstances, you’re looking at a current pension maximum of $733.18 fortnightly in New Zealand, which becomes available once you reach the retirement age in New Zealand (65). Even if the individual does continue to work, they have (hopefully/expectedly) ‘paid their debt’ to society in regards to being an active member of both the work force and the economy, and should consequently reap some benefits when it comes to the cost of enjoying their retirement.

Who else should benefit from concession price tickets though? Who could other potential ‘special’ customers be? I would argue that there are three more categories: groups of 6 or more, Community Services Card holders, and members of New Zealand Actors’ Equity.

Groups of X or more is another common, but not too common, concession. While the reasoning is more in lines with ‘bulk’ discounting, groups of 6 or more are making an effort to bring a significant number of people to the theatre; significant, because theatre bookings of 6 or over are not common. It stands then that 6 or more is an accurate number from a commercial viewpoint of where the line should be drawn.

Community Services Card holders are those on a low to middle income. The fact that the card is specifically aimed at easing the financial strain of health care, doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge what it represents. This concession is for people who are acknowledged by social services to have a legitimate need for financial assistance. Why not allow theatre, the often-toted mirror to society, to recognise this social status and make a concession accordingly?

Lastly, New Zealand Actors’ Equity members: an industry discount. In theatre, work often begets work, and I myself have cast people based on performances of theirs that I have seen. Providing the financial opportunity for those throughout the industry to keep up with productions also means that practitioners have a wider perspective on the direction in which theatre is heading and how to accommodate, compliment, or rail against it accordingly.

Do you agree with this listing of concessions? Do you think there should be additions or omissions? Write your thoughts in the comment section below.

A quick side note: It amazes me that most people do not take the opportunity of pre-sale tickets, that is, reduced ticket prices with no booking fee. New Zealanders (Aucklanders, specifically) are notorious for not booking in advance. Is there a way to remedy this?

6 Comments on EDITORIAL: Where’s my Concession?

  1. Your last paragraph… uhh, huh?! While some shows offer cheaper presales (and I’m happy to take them up), it’s not the norm for theatre. I’ve noticed it to be more common for music gigs to be honest.

    I’m sure you’ve also noticed that presales are usually _more_ expensive than door sales, given that most of us book online. I’d much rather rock up to the venue, pay the advertised price, and avoid the service fee.

    On that topic, I think it should be illegal to advertise a ticket at a certain price, and for there to be no avenue to buy it at that exact price. For instance, at Ticketek-controlled venues during the Comedy Festival, every purchase method (web, phone and door sale) incurred a service charge. Not cool, guys.

    • Hi Robbie, I included the last paragraph due to the last production I directed offering such discounted pre-sale tickets with no booking fee. Certainly not the norm for theatre, I know, but one that I think should be implemented nonetheless, hence my mentioning it.

    • Those service fees are whole story unto themselves aren’t they Robbie? I really grew to resent Ticketek during the Comedy Festival, especially how they take over The Basement which have been doing Dionysus’s work not charging online booking fees through their iTICKET arrangement.

  2. Not just actors, but writers and directors – many of whom go to lots of shows to keep up with who is doing what and how well they do it. They too are involved in casting future productions.
    Booking agencies fees vary considerably and often seem exorbitant. In every production I’ve been involved with at the Herald Theatre, for example, the ticketing agency has been paid up to 100 times more per night than any of the actors, director or writer has.

    • Agree, Tony. I named NZAE as it’s the only guild/union I’m aware of regarding theatre, but, of course, writers, directors, and theatre technicians should all be included in the ‘industry discount.’

  3. The NZ Writers’ Guild, which, like Equity, is affiliated to the CTU, covers theatre writers along with screen writers. Its first president was Bruce Mason. It was responsible for the first contract covering rights for stage writers, drawn up by Greg McGee who was also subsequently president. The current president is Pip Hall.

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