I eavesdropped on a couple of veteran producers the other day, one of whom was obviously in negotiations over a theater for an upcoming show.
Here’s how the conversation went:
Veteran #1: I’m thinking of letting the audience drink during the show like they do at Rock of Ages.
Veteran #2: Why not? Everyone’s doing it. I bought my wife a sippy cup full of wine at Jersey Boys just last month. Boy are those theaters making more in bar revenue than ever before. The wine was 11 dollars!
Veteran #1: 11 dollars?
Veteran #2: Yeah. I had to ask them if it included a facility fee.
This conversation was funnier in person (partly because of the awesome pair of tweed pants Veteran #2 was wearing), but it also made me remember one of the downsides to capitalism in industries with challenging models.
The facility fee was tossed on top of ticket prices years ago to defray the costs of renovation, upkeep, etc. of these historic buildings. It was getting more expensive to keep them in shape, so the theaters needed another revenue stream to offset some of the costs.
Now, at some shows, bar revenues are sky-high as drinking in your seats is encouraged. I’d bet there is some serious found money being counted.
Wouldn’t it be nice if this economic windfall was passed back to the consumer by eliminating the facility fee?
Or what about upping the price of the sippy cups by .50, as a drink tax (like a cigarette tax), and putting that towards the theater renovations, etc, making it an optional expense?
Doubt it’ll happen. Once an income line hits your books, it’s hard to get it to disappear, even if 10 other lines follow it.
And that’s too bad . . . because the lines at our box office may suffer because of it.