Smith Center for Performing Arts pricing structure a mix of picks

Will your wallet take a wallop or dodge a drubbing?

Answers are in the ticket prices, ticket sales and ticket buyers’ perceptions as seats begin to fill up for the series of four Broadway shows at the yet-to-open Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

"We hired a company out of Denver whose business is modeling ticketing and seating for theater," says Smith Center President Myron Martin, explaining the process the $502 million facility used to arrive at prices for the touring musicals set to bow for limited runs in Reynolds Hall shortly after it opens in March.

"Then we pulled prices from other places, from Orange County (Calif.) and L.A. and San Francisco and Phoenix and other markets to fact-check and do comparison checking. We come back to the basic premise that we’re building this for people who live here, and our goal is to make our ticket prices as affordable as possible within the confines of what our Broadway producing partners will allow."

Comparing venues to evaluate what’s reasonable pricing — and what would qualify as gouging — is tricky. You’ve heard the expression: "There are lies, damn lies, statistics and ticket prices." (Yes, we added that last one for purposes of this story.)

Subscription sales, Martin says, are brisk and "exceeding expectations" for the four shows arriving in 2012: "The Color Purple" (April 3-8), "Mary Poppins" (May 22-27), "Million Dollar Quartet" (June 12-17) and "Memphis" (July 18-22). With the $99 package already sold out, the subscriptions still available are $139 to $309.

(Prices have yet to be announced for "Wicked," the 800-pound musical gorilla that is separate from the series package and pulls in for a six-week stop Aug. 29-Oct. 7, 2012.)

Boiling down the math: Individual tickets — which go on sale in November — range from $24 to $89, with the vast majority at $35 to $79 (including a $3 "facility fee").

Then — dust off those tuxedos and gowns, highbrows — there are the ritzy "Gold Circle" tickets. "In order to make the opportunity for $24 and $35 seats, we carved out a handful of the very best seats in the orchestra and we priced them higher," Martin says about the special seating that goes for $129 a pop for single tickets and $519 as a subscription. Out of the 2,050 Reynolds Hall seats, 195 — or just less than 10 percent — are Gold Circle.

Exclusive Gold Circle status also is bestowed on the box level. "Our donors, the people who paid anywhere from $1.5 million to $5 million get first dibs on buying tickets in their boxes," Martin says.

"It’s possible that as donors say, ‘I want to come on Friday night but not Saturday night’ for certain shows, that we will eventually release some of those tickets for sale on a single-ticket basis. But the only person who can subscribe to a box is the person who donated to create the box."

Separate from the Broadway series are the season concerts by Reynolds Hall’s permanent co-tenants, Nevada Ballet Theatre and the Las Vegas Philharmonic, which work out their own pricing. Philharmonic spokeswoman Sabrina Cozine says the organization’s tickets will remain at current levels, except for adding the center’s $3 facility fee. Single tickets will run from $38 to $78, and various subscription combos of the "Masterworks" and "Pops" series will range from $114 to $624. The ballet company has not assembled a pricing tier yet.

One factor that cannot be gauged until the hall opens? Quality of sight lines. Are the views from the sides and especially from the back of the venue worth the prices, however low they might be?

Patrons will proclaim their satisfaction or dissatisfaction once they hand over their credit cards, step inside and find out how much of Mary Poppins’ magic umbrella they can make out and whether the experience is — visually speaking — supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

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