Theatre UCF reveals best-selling shows
We all know there’s no business like show business. But which show is best in the business?
Theatre UCF has put on almost 100 different stage productions since 2006. Each one has been vastly different, from contemporary plays to classic musicals. They’re so unique, that it can be hard to judge which ones have done the best.
Heather Gibson, marketing director for Theatre UCF, said that because of the types of shows and the different venues, comparing ticket sales would be like comparing apples to oranges. Instead, she said to really compare these shows, it is better to look at the percentage of seats sold for each venue.
The department has two different venues: the black box theatre and the main stage. The black box has 129 seats, while the main stage has around 306, but that number can vary depending on the production and the seating accommodations.
“I do more advertising for our shows in the bigger venues, because there are more seats to fill,” Gibson said. “The shows in the black box sell out.”
Many factors contribute to how well a show will sell seats.
Variables like the popularity of the show itself, the time of year and the size of the cast all contribute to how well a production fills its audience.
Traditionally, classic musicals sell better than more contemporary shows and the larger casts fill more seats with family and friends who come to support their loved ones.
Rent, a contemporary play that addresses social issues, topped the charts with the most tickets sold. Gibson said the name of the play wasn’t able to be announced until right before it opened, but that didn’t stop ticket sales from skyrocketing.
“We were able to announce the name right before it opened and ticket sales soared right through the roof,” Gibson said. “We did an extended run to it.”
Rent sold 3,513 tickets, topping West Side Story, which sold 2,431 tickets.
Gibson said the revenue for most of UCF’s musicals falls between $20,000 and $25,000 each.
“West Side Story fell into this window,” she said. “Because we had additional performances of Rent, the revenue increased to about $40,000 for that production.”
She added that these numbers are income only and do not reflect any of the costs associated with presenting a show.
“The income generated from the ticket sales does not cover the full costs of our productions, which are considered classes at the university,” Gibson said.
However, providing an outlet for students, she said, is much more important than any amount of money the shows make.
“Our programming isn’t done just for ticket sales, it’s a educational lab for students,” she said. “We pick shows that fit the students’ educational needs and our ticket sales our secondary.”
The students that take part in these productions form a tight-knit community, one through which they can cultivate their talents and have fun doing what they love.
“I think that the department … really prepares you for a professional life,” said Trevor Starr, a junior in the BFA musical theatre program. “I’m still relishing being these characters and learning how to be a professional at the same time.”
Starr played one of the leads in The Importance of Being Earnest this summer, one of the shows, along with Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, that made more sales than any of the previous summer shows in the last seven years. Both shows filled more than 50 percent of the total number of seats, with Earnest filling 59 percent and Black Patent filling 67 percent.
Earnest will have the opportunity to fill more seats during the first week of school, as it will return Aug. 27 to put on four more shows.
Benjamin Parrish, the play’s stage manager, said the play’s reputation as a classic piece of literature may have helped boost the production’s popularity.
“Oscar Wilde is considered the Shakespeare of his day and age and his work is studied in high schools and colleges,” the sophomore stage management major said.
He said he thinks the popularity of the show played a part in how well it was received during the summer season. But, he added that even though the show was well known, it was also UCF’s good reputation that reeled in audiences.
“The best publicity for a show is a good show, because if a show is good, people are going to talk about it,” he said. “We would have almost had to work harder to make it fail, we had so much talent going into it.”
Deanna Ferrante is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.