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Met Opera&#146s “Record” First-Day Sales: 321 More Tickets, 12% More Expensive

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Given recent news stories about its financial difficulties and production controversies, the Metropolitan Opera jumped at the chance to report some good news this week.

This hit my inbox yesterday:

The Metropolitan Opera set a new record for opening day at the box office when single tickets for the 2010-11 season went on sale to the public yesterday. Total sales reached $2,653,676 (24,087 tickets) as compared to $2,505,793 (23,766 tickets) on the equivalent day last season, which was the previous record.

So let’s crunch those numbers: A mere 321 more tickets sold on Sunday than on last year’s opening day at the box office—a paltry 1% increase. But the financial take increased by $147,883—a 6% increase.

Only 6%? According to Daniel Wakin‘s recent NY Times article, the average increase in ticket prices was 11%. I can only think that buyers sought out locations with smaller increases in price, but I’ll let someone else crunch those numbers.

I was one of those who bought tickets on Sunday by using one of “five convenient ways to order”—going online. Trust me, this was not convenient. The Met’s server couldn’t handle the first-day load, and it was a long time before I finally got to the ordering page for the first production I wanted to attend. Then, with two more operas that I wanted to add to my cart, I was informed I had 14 minutes to complete the order. So I scrambled to click my operas, pick my seats and enter my information. I chose the option to print my own tickets, figuring that saving the Met mailing charges would save me some service fees.

Then came the kicker: $45 in services charges ($7.50 per ticket) plus a $15 facility fee—a total of $60 added on. The service charge for mail orders, which I assume are more expensive for the house to process than online orders, would have been far less—a mere $2.50 per ticket. (Until this year, I had ordered by mail.) The ticket price increase was 12% for the Saturday evening tickets that I ordered.

I’ve been in the Met audience all my life, but I’m starting to hit the Great Wall of Price Resistance. Maybe I’ll move to a higher-level, lower-priced location next year…and certainly revert to snail mail.

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