Wang said there is no way the center could recoup its cost in certain projects, for example, flying in the Simon Rattle-led Berlin Philharmonic. Online rumors put per-seat cost at 3,000 yuan, partly due to special transportation and accommodation demands from the artists. Wang said only that the cost was "not that high".
But overall, he said, the center factors cost, audience acceptance and supply-and-demand dynamics into its pricing.
On its website, the Berlin Philharmonic concerts Nov 10 and 11 were listed at 380, 580, 780, 1,080, 1,380 and 1,680 yuan, plus an unspecified VIP rate. However, Wang explained that no matter how you price a performance, people who buy their own tickets will flock to tickets in the medium-to-low price range.
Wang said the center prices its tickets slightly below market. "The brass quintet from the Berlin Philharmonic fetched 300 yuan for the highest, which was 100 yuan below what others might have charged. A New Year concert could go upward of 1,800-2,000 yuan elsewhere, but ours went up to only 1,680 yuan," he said.
In each of its first three years, the center presented around 800 commercial performances in its four venues - an opera house, a theater, a concert hall and a multi-functional hall that doubles as a small theater. The average ticket price is 314 yuan, Wang said, putting the annual gross in the 300 million-yuan range.
The center has gradually lowered admission fees by placing more tickets in the medium and low brackets. "We started with 72 percent of overall tickets in the below-500-yuan bracket, and now that ratio has grown to 83 percent. For seats below 300 yuan, which is deemed low, the percentage has increased from 44 to 52," Wang said.
Other theaters have similar strategies, said Zhang Chaohui, operating director of Poly Theater. "Poly gives priority in service to top-rated shows, some of which may not be expected to bring in profits. And it provides student discounts in the range of 80-100 yuan for certain commercial performances, to groom future theater aficionados," he said. "The bottom line is, we won't let our house be empty."
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