Friday, May 21, 2010

So Far Concerns About DPAC’s Impact Appear Unjustified

Several people have asked if I’m surprised at the success of DPAC, the new Durham Performing Arts Center.  I’m not at all.  I never had any doubts Durham’s 13th or so theater would be successful.

Nor am I surprised at the proportion of visitors attending events in the new theater.  It is about the same proportion Durham draws for other performing arts, sports events, dining, shopping etc.

The question was always about whether that success might be at the expense of Durham’s other theaters.  It is much too early to see a trend but I’ve examined overall Durham attendance through 1/3rd of this year compared to the same period a year ago.applause

Overall, through 1/3rd of the year so far, performing arts attendance in Durham is up 6.2% over last year.  Without including DPAC in either year, overall performing arts attendance in Durham would still be up 5.5% through the first third of the year.

This is good news so far.  While much too early yet to know for sure, it doesn’t look like the new theater has siphoned business from other theaters or maybe they’ve just been able to scramble to make adjustments.

DCVB (Durham’s community marketing agency) has also certainly made a valiant effort even under the constraints of the downturn to bump up awareness among visitors of all performing arts venues in Durham while showcasing the newest one.

Of course, I’m dealing with overall attendance and the new theater may have had impact on a particular theater or two.  I hope any concerns though continue to turn out unjustified.

While anecdotal, it appears that Raleigh, another city in the region, electing to close down a touring Broadway series may have been in response to the success of of a series in the new Durham theater.  That may or may not mean DPAC has siphoned business from other communities in the region.

I don’t really have access to nor do I know that the other communities track overall community-wide attendance.  The decision in Raleigh, where that particular series was publically subsidized, may be for other reasons, for all I know.

One irony is that I’ve personally overheard or heard second hand about a few self proclaimed “regionalists” gloating.  I’m sure that would be a turn off to any true regionalist, as it is to me.

The challenge for communities in any “region” but particularly in a polycentric region like the “Triangle” is to sustain and evolve cultural assets while adding value rather than being redundant or predatory.

I have to remind communities in Wake County (it is permitted a state-authorized prepared food tax for these purposes that is denied to every other community in the state save Charlotte) whenever they are tempted to “go shopping for culture” rather than growing their own, by attempting to lure Durham institutions to relocate.

No comments: