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Are Ballet Companies Making Too Much Money From The Nutcracker?

New York City Ballet's Nutcracker has been performed every year since 1954. Photo by Paul Kolnik, via nycb.com

Love it or hate it, come December, The Nutcracker is ubiquitous. It's easy to wonder whether it's sustainable to keep performing the same holiday classic year after year, or to spend millions of dollars reinventing it for new productions. But believe it or not, the show's popularity is only growing.

Every year, Dance/USA conducts a Nutcracker Survey on its member companies, compiling data about ticket sales, attendance and more. The organization just reported on the state of the Nutcracker for the first time since 2008, and the data shows just how much the ballet's prevalence has grown in the past 10 years—and how much companies have come to rely on it as a revenue source:


Houston Ballet's Melody Mennite in the company's new Nutcracker production. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet.

In 2017, member companies made a total of $51 million in Nutcracker ticket sales.

That's quite a jump from only $30 million in 2008. (Which, granted, was a difficult financial year for the arts.)

Nutcracker sales represent 48% of surveyed companies' overall season revenues.

As compared to 22-25% of total season revenue in 2008. This means dependence on Nutcracker sales has more than doubled.

Nutcracker attendance has increased by 14% since 2008.

That's more than 83,000 additional people.

Average Nutcracker ticket prices have almost doubled since 2008. 

On average, the most expensive tickets in 2017 were $147 and the cheapest were $28.

Companies are performing 29% more Nutcracker shows than they were in 2008. 

That's an average of two extra performances.

Charlotte Ballet's Nutcracker. Photo by Christopher Record, via charlotteballet.org

Though it's a good sign that more people are attending the ballet, as Dance/USA points out, it's a little concerning that companies are putting so many of their eggs in one basket by relying so heavily on Nutcracker sales for their overall revenue. Our wish for 2019? Similar enthusiasm for non-Nutcracker performances.

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