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Utah arts organizations learn how to work their most reliable offerings

Published November 27, 2012 10:46 am

Holiday arts • When it comes to annual budget and ticket sales for Utah arts groups, some productions are more equal than others.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In Great Britain and Ireland, the holiday shopping season is referred to as "the golden quarter," that wonderful time when consumers snap up all manners of goods, and a few services, to make the holiday season that most reliable of free-market bonanzas.

In the United States, we know it as "Christmas creep," the temptation to stretch the holiday season so long — in search of fun and profits — that moods and budgets can snap.

According to the National Retail Federation, last year's holiday season accounted for almost 20 percent of the nation's total retail industry sales. In dollar terms for 2011, that's $563 billion worth of shopping receipts.

It would be naive, then, to expect that Utah's arts organizations would sit out the season. Instead, with multiple productions of "The Nutcracker" and "A Christmas Carol," professional, community and university dance and theater companies all aspire to attract arts lovers seeking entertainment and holiday cheer. These productions range from Ballet West's beloved Willam F. Christensen version of "The Nutcracker," which first opened in 1955 in Salt Lake City's Kingsbury Hal, to West Valley City's long-running version of "A Christmas Carol," produced annually at Hale Centre Theatre since 1984. Hale Center Theater Orem has treated Utah County theatergoers to its staged version of the Dickens classic since 1990.

Of course, when they are seeking cash cows, not every Utah company competes for Yuletide attention. Salt Lake Acting Company programs its high-spirited "Saturday's Voyeur," an annual ritual stretching back to 1978, for summer crowds. Odyssey Dance Theatre rocks the house at Halloween with its Utah touring shows of the energetic "Thriller."

Nevertheless, according to the numbers for what might be considered sure hits in the arts worlds, with revenue and ticket sales provided by each participating organization, not searching the holiday calendar might seem downright fiscally foolish.

Ballet West's "The Nutcracker"

• Last year's production accounted for 15.3 percent of the company's 2011 annual revenue.

• It brought in 53 percent of that year's ticket sales.

Hale Centre Theatre West Valley City's "A Christmas Carol"

• Last year's production accounted for 8 percent of the company's 2011 annual budget.

• It brought in 10 percent of that year's ticket sales.

Hale Center Theater Orem's "A Christmas Carol"

• Last year's production accounted for 9.3 percent of the company's 2011 annual budget.

• It brought in 14.6 percent of that year's ticket sales.

Salt Lake Acting Company's "Saturday's Voyeur"

• Last year's production accounted for 30 percent of the company's 2011 annual budget revenue.

• It brought in 53 percent of that year's ticket sales.

Odyssey Dance Theatre's "Thriller!"

• Last year's production accounted for 73.2 percent of the company's 2011 annual budget revenue.

• It brought in 92.6 percent of that year's ticket sales.