By Paul Goldfinger
Quite a few Bloogers have been complaining about the Saturday night shows that occur on fourteen occasions each summer in the Great Auditorium. Some have said that the acts are has-beens who only appeal to seniors. Others think that more famous or younger performers would be better, while yet others wish there were more parking and air conditioning. Some hate the Doo Wops so much that they would rather watch Broadway flood on a Saturday night.
It’s not clear what the bottom line is all about with these complaints, but they all seem to think that the Camp Meeting could have bigger crowds if only they changed their programming. This outpouring of appreciation arose after the CMA announced that they lost money on the Saturday night shows. As it turns out, the amount of money lost (money collected minus expenditures) was a small negative amount. Ticket sales were down, but Johnny Mathis was cancelled at the last minute because he needed emergency hip surgery. In addition, due to the economy, tickets are down everywhere — not just at the Great Auditorium.
Although no explanation is necessary from the CMA, you should know that these shows are very expensive, and the more famous acts can cost $100,000-$200,000 or more and are thus not affordable unless ticket prices are raised considerably. In addition, the costs for the shows have to be increased beyond the performers fees; there are thousands of dollars for sound and for advertising.
Perhaps you have noticed how inexpensive the GA show tickets are relative to others in the area. Tickets to Count Basie to see Fiona Apple cost $100.00 for the balcony and they go up from there.
The CMA is in competition with some major venues including the Paramount in Asbury Park. You can see Kiss at the PNC Bank Arts Center, but orchestra seats cost $100-$187. Many of the competing theaters are open all year, unlike the GA, so they have more flexibility to make money.
The target demographic for the Saturday shows in OG are families from towns around this area who may want to bring children to a show like Abba. Those folks want wholesome entertainment at an affordable price, and even though the GA has 5,000 good seats, that doesn’t mean that the 2,700 tickets that Sedaka sold are chicken feed.
The Count Basie has 1,500 seats, so 1,500 tickets is a good night for them. The other advantage a place like Count Basie has is that they can run a show for 3-5 days in a row or longer. This lets them make more money than the Great Auditorium, which has a very limited availability situation. It also gives them access to shows that won’t come for just one night.
The CMA is a private organization that likes to do their programming the way they do — and they are doing just fine. That’s not to say that they don’t welcome your suggestions, but you have to understand the complexity of the situation.
SOUNDTRACK: Listen to Ethel Merman. She knows the situation: