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Could Simulcasts be Hurting the Metropolitan Opera After All?

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The top takeaway from the interview with Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb in this morning's New York Times is that the company is lowering its ticket prices. As writer Daniel Wakin notes, such a move is "a rarity" among major performing arts organizations, even if the average 10 percent drop simply brings prices back to where they were before this season's 10 percent increase.

What caught our eye, however, was this comment by Gelb:

He also blamed falling attendance on a “cannibalization” of the audience by the Met’s high-definition movie theater broadcasts. Attendance this season is projected to be, on average, 81 percent of capacity, compared with 84 percent last season.

This is the first time we've heard a negative word about the HD simulcasts from a Met official. As we reported last month, the Met has routinely referred to these cine-casts as "win-wins," giving more people the chance to see their productions while enticing them to buy tickets to a live show when the opportunity arises. Now, Gelb has at least raised the possibility that some opera lovers feel less need to pay his (inflated) ticket prices when they can see the same production at a movie theater.

Was the "cannibalization" comment an offhand remark by an administrator trying to explain his company's sub-par performance? Or does it represent a change in thinking? We'll know more when the 2013-14 Live in HD season is announced.

Meanwhile, you can see Wagner's Parsifal at noon ET this Saturday at a movie theater near you.