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In tough economy, arts lovers escape to shows

In tough economy, arts lovers escape to shows

Arts venues in the region don’t seem to be suffering yet, even as rising prices force people to shel

Arts venues in the region don’t seem to be suffering yet, even as rising prices force people to shell out more to fill up their tanks and stock their refrigerators.

Crowds at the beginning of the summer season’s lineup of concerts and performances have been good, organizers said.

But people are waiting longer to buy tickets, a trend that has been developing for about five years, said Debra Bell, marketing director for Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown.

“It’s just a reality of the age of technology,” Bell said. People can buy at the last minute on the Internet and wait longer to figure out how they’re going to spend their hard-earned leisure time.

“People have very hectic lives,” agreed Marcia White, president and executive director of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. “People will make a last-minute decision and walk up and we’ll have a strong walk-up.”

Although Glimmerglass has had to adjust its sales goals to reflect the trend, advance ticket sales overall this summer are good, with several nights already sold out.

“Normally, that wouldn’t happen until another couple weeks,” Bell said. “We are now ahead of where we were the last two years.”

SPAC enjoyed a crowd of almost 1,900 at the New York City Ballet’s opening night last week, White said. And ticket sales for the ballet gala on July 19 are up 55 percent from last year, possibly because “West Side Story” star Rita Moreno is the headliner.

Membership numbers are about the same as last year, although revenue is up thanks to more corporate sponsorships, White said.

Jacob’s Pillow, a summer dance festival in Becket, Mass., also just started its season, and artistic director Ella Baff said she’s not sure whether the economy will keep people away.

“It is too early in our season. But we seem to be holding our own,” she said.

Arts fans seem to be willing to pay for entertainment and sacrifice elsewhere.

“The people I know who attend the New York City Ballet at SPAC are going to attend whether they have grocery money or not,” said Jennifer Leidig, a ballet fan who lives in Saratoga Springs. “They eat, sleep and breathe ballet when it comes to July.”

Those kind of people will cut back elsewhere, like on vacations, she said.

White is counting on that, too.

“I think this season, more people will decide to stay close to home,” she said. “And hopefully they’ll want a family activity like going to an event at SPAC.

“We sell experiences here; we sell the memories that are built,” White said.

Leidig said the programming affects the crowds more than anything. If it’s a good show, people will come.

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