Survey shows ticket prices up


An annual survey of ticket prices may not shock you with news that Las Vegas shows are up again this year. But even I was surprised at how many can set you back $100 or more.

For 16 years, the Las Vegas Advisor has tallied up every show on the Strip -- except for concerts and visiting headliners -- to chart a largely uninterrupted rise in prices. This year found an increase of nearly 12 percent, to an average price of $69.45. If you narrow the list of 75 titles down to what the Advisor calls "A-ticket shows," the average ticket is $74.21.

Here's the big news: There are 19 shows with at least one ticket option that tops $100, compared with 12 last year.

Each year when Advisor Publisher Anthony Curtis sends me his list, I do a side comparison of eight titles that have been in the same venue for three years. This year found an average price of $84.81, compared with $78.90 last year and $78.27 the year before.

Originally, the side list was intended to look at stable, long-running hits without the fluctuations of big-ticket arrivals or lesser titles that usually "mark 'em up to mark 'em down" with coupons or half-price outlets. But this year, it seems prices are up no matter how you subdivide them.

As usual, the numbers alone don't tell the whole story. That "mark 'em up" phenomenon is reflected by the 42 shows listed with half-price outlet Tix4Tonight and 28 (most overlapping) listed with competitor Tickets2Nite.

And these aren't all male strippers and hypnotists. The Advisor hoofed over to the booths, which aren't allowed to list their shows online or on the phone (part of a deal with producers to preserve the value of full-price sales).

The visit turned up some of the Strip's better shows, including "Phantom -- The Las Vegas Spectacular," Penn & Teller, "Zumanity" and "Mamma Mia!" The half-price vendors deny serving as the primary box office for any producer. But the sheer number of listed titles reinforces the common-sense notion that beyond the "must sees," the realistic price to fill up most shows is about half the one that's advertised.

Welcome trends toward locals' discounts and more tiers of pricing also continue. As new theaters open -- the latest being a 1,500-seater for "Stomp Out Loud" -- the nightly inventory of tickets continues to swell. If a show's a hit, don't expect any miracles; even the obstructed-view seats for "O" still bust $100 once you add in sales tax. But the less popular "Ka" currently offers half-price seats for locals instead of letting them sit empty.

I'm willing to predict prices will hold or dip next year. Steve Wynn continues to be a pacesetter on the Strip, and he has reined in "Monty Python's Spamalot" prices to a range of $49 to $99.

And pricing tiers for the Aladdin's new shows -- "Stomp Out Loud" and magician Hans Klok -- offer bottom-tier seats of $50 and $38, respectively. ...

Speaking of deals, the Scintas are offering locals a $25 ticket until their show closes at the Sahara on May 12.

Would that have been a fair price from the get-go to fill at least the upper rows of an 860-seat theater ? I think I can hear your answer. But you will run into producers who argue that if tickets are too cheap, people will shy away, figuring the show isn't worth the effort. ...

Wynn's "Le Reve" is experimenting in the opposite direction of "Spamalot." The show reopened last week with a remodeled theater that removed 481 seats and added a $159 VIP Indulgence Package that includes premium seating with champagne. ...

Will David Hasselhoff's May 6 departure be the beginning of the end for "The Producers"? The Hoff's publicist told the Review-Journal's Norm Clarke that the taping schedule for "America's Got Talent" will make it "impossible for him to keep flying back and forth." But the show does its most intensive upfront taping this month, before Hasselhoff leaves.

And Hasselhoff is a very wealthy man. So are Jay Leno, Howie Mandel and Bill Maher, all of whom fly in for live shows (or in Maher's case, plan to starting April 20) after television tapings.

No reason why Hasselhoff couldn't do the same -- or even change the day "The Producers" is dark -- assuming, um, that it pencils out for him.

"I don't do anything unless I own a piece of it," Hasselhoff told podcasters Steve Friess and Miles Smith last year. ...

Far be it from me to question the tale magician Steve Wyrick told Star magazine of a backstage sexual encounter with the late Anna Nicole Smith. Don't wanna ask him, don't wanna know. True or not, it's just too seedy a way to get publicity.

But I will say this. The story of the midshow encounter being amplified by microphone belt packs that weren't turned off is mighty similar to one that has circulated this town for years, involving a magician who no longer works in Las Vegas. ...

Finally, I got a kick out of an old advertising ploy used in recent press releases and print ads for Prince at the Rio: "By overwhelming demand Prince has extended his stay."

This is only funny to reporters who know that his stay was never guaranteed enough to be "extended." Ever since he arrived at the Rio, deriving simple information such as the duration of his tenure has been like pulling teeth, confusing even box office attendants and employees of the producing company, AEG Live.

Well, this much now seems sure: Prince closes out his run on April 28.

So what happens to the restaurant?

Mike Weatherford's entertainment column appears Thursdays and Sundays. Contact him at 383-0288 or e-mail him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com.

 

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