Although lots of opera companies are trying to build audience with free outdoor simulcasts of performances, the San Francisco Opera is actually making a small profit from the endeavor – and they may be the only one.
The SF Opera holds its simulcasts at the baseball park home to the San Francisco Giants. The open-air location, where crowds can “come and go” is probably key to the events’ success, which have attracted crowds of 30,000 people. The Wall Street Journal writes, “At the stadium, the 103-foot-wide video scoreboard means everyone gets a good seat for the show. People can sit in the stands or picnic on the field, and many bring their children—who have been known to run the bases during the performance. Plus, all the usual ballpark concessions are in play, meaning that opera patrons clad in shorts can put their feet up, drink a beer and eat garlic fries—all while listening to the soprano’s heart-rending death scene sung to the percussion of the popcorn machine.”
Also key to the success of the initiative, the Opera is able to collect contact information from attendees who register for the event (for free) in exchange for early admission. Using that data, the Opera has calculated that “new patrons” have purchased about $880,000 in tickets to traditional performances at the Opera House in San Francisco. That puts the opera slightly in the black for the simulcasts, having spent about $800,000 on the endeavor.
The WSJ reports that the opera has added “populist touches” to appeal to opera neophytes: “During an intermission for the 2007 simulcast of Camille Saint-Saëns’s “Samson and Delilah,” attendees were asked to vote for their favorite character by holding up San Francisco Giants-branded signs that said “Go Samson!” on one side and “Go Delilah!” on the other.”
Now, why can’t the Met do it?