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Fringe File #13: Box Offices

Julie Marie Muskat in RUNE presented by Vox Medusa at Intermedia Arts. Photo by Alex Wohlhueter.

Note: This story has been updated to correct some inaccurate information. It originally stated that the MN Fringe Festival Ultrapassers Emeriti Facebook group was founded in response to the discontinuation of the Ultrapass; this group was renamed in response to this event, but existed prior.

The numbers are in for the 2016 Minnesota Fringe. The festival, which ran for 11 days and wrapped up Sunday evening, featured 168 shows and 869 performances and put 47,882 butts in seats (so to speak). Although this attendance was some 5% less than last year’s (174 shows, 909 performances, 50,338), it was a Fringe personal record for most attendance when scheduled head-to-head with the Summer Olympics.

From the team that created Oregon Trail: A Musical came a parody rooted in the musical of Hamilton. Photo by Rajib Bahar.
From the team that created Oregon Trail: A Musical came a parody rooted in the musical of Hamilton. Photo by Rajib Bahar.

One of the more interesting aspects of this year’s festival was the move from a mixed single-admission ticket and pass model to an all-you-can-eat daily passes system. Under the new admissions model, festival attendees purchased unlimited admission-wristbands for each day of the festival that they attended, with show reservations available for an added $3.75 each. This move, which the Fringe Festival’s Executive Director Jeff Larson described in an October interview as an experiment in trying to boost the average show attendance, had no clear impact in the butts-in-seats department: ignoring all other factors, the 2015 Fringe Festival averaged 55.4 attendees per performance, while the 2016 Fringe Festival averaged 55.1 – a statistically insignificant difference.

In a press release, Jeff Larson described the move to daily passes as “an enormous thing…[marking] a shift in audience behavior…audiences taking more chances and being more adventurous.” Although the presence of the Olympics makes direct comparisons difficult, it is clear that the move hasn’t notably hurt sales.

RUNE presented by Vox Medusa at Intermedia Arts. Photo by Alex Wohlhueter.
RUNE presented by Vox Medusa at Intermedia Arts. Photo by Alex Wohlhueter.

In terms of audience response to the wristbands, the change went fairly smoothly; Fringe staff and volunteers interviewed during the festival noted a few rough patches but no major problems after explaining the new system to attendees (the odd irate purchaser notwithstanding). More upset than the general public were past buyers of the Fringe Festival UltraPass – a discontinued, unlimited admission pass that many purchasers used their vacation days to see as many shows as humanly possible over the course of the festival. (In previous years, UltraPass holders were also considered one of the most informed sources on what to see each year; this year, without their visible colored passes, they were not quite so easy to identify in a crowd.)

The overall box office gross for the 2016 Fringe Festival was not available at press time. In 2015, the Fringe Festival generated $411,799, of which approximately 70% was paid directly to Fringe artists.

Top 10 Shows by Overall Ticket Sales

1. Bezubaan: The Voiceless presented by Bollywood Dance Scene

2. Ball: A Musical Tribute To My Lost Testicle presented by The Catalysts

3. Sometimes There’s Wine presented by Shanan Custer & Carolyn Pool

4. Gilligan: A Tropical Musical presented by Literally Entertainment Productions

5. In The Time of Spies presented by Ferrari McSpeedy Theatrical Productions

6. Fruit Flies Like a Banana: Alphabetical Disorder presented by The Fourth Wall

7. Apple Picking presented by Ben San Del Presents

8. Couple Fight II: Friends and Family presented by Weggel-Reed Productions

9. NOW OR LATER presented by NEW EPIC THEATER

10. Caucasian Aggressive Pandas and Other Mulatto Tales presented by Fearless Comedy Productions

Top 10 Shows by Percent Capacity

"The Lost Anklet - Therukkoothu" presented by Minnesota Tamil Sangam at the Southern Theater. Photo: Ann B. Erickson.
The Lost Anklet – Therukkoothu, presented by Minnesota Tamil Sangam at the Southern Theater. Photo by Ann B. Erickson.

1. Bezubaan: The Voiceless presented by Bollywood Dance Scene

2. Twice presented by Its Time Productions

3. You Suck. presented by Tinker-2-Evers-2-Chance

4. Ball: A Musical Tribute To My Lost Testicle presented by The Catalysts

5. H.P. Lovecraft’s The Rats in the Walls presented by Ghoulish Delights

6. Suite Surrender presented by PZ Productions

7. Happenstanced presented by Pipermonkey

8. Wolf Tales presented by DanceCo

9. Ray Bradbury’s Kaleidoscope presented by Wayward Theatre Company

10. Bird of Seven Colors presented by Erin Sheppard Presents

Sell-out Shows

Tim Uren spooked audiences with his storytelling in the horror narrative H.P. Lovecraft's The Rats in the Walls, presented by Ghoulish Delights at Mill City Museum. Photo: Alex Wohlhueter.
Tim Uren spooked audiences with his storytelling in the horror narrative H.P. Lovecraft’s The Rats in the Walls, presented by Ghoulish Delights at Mill City Museum. Photo by Alex Wohlhueter.
  • AfterLife presented by SunsetGun Productions
  • Airbags presented by Rebecca Sandell (3 performances)
  • Assemblé presented by Minneapolis Ballet Dancers (2 performances)
  • Ball: A Musical Tribute To My Lost Testicle presented by The Catalysts (4 performances)
  • Bezubaan: The Voiceless presented by Bollywood Dance Scene (4 performances)
  • Bird of Seven Colors presented by Erin Sheppard Presents (3 performances)
  • Broken English, Mother Tongue presented by minnerican productions (3 performances)
  • Circus McGurkus presented by Mike’s Brass
  • Evil Twin presented by Ilana Kapra Presents
  • Full Heart Living LIVE! The Boot Camp Experience presented by Cosmos Theater
  • Gilligan: A Tropical Musical presented by Literally Entertainment Productions (5 performances)
  • Good Friday With Dillinger presented by LookBack Productions (2 performances)
  • H.P. Lovecraft’s The Rats in the Walls presented by  Ghoulish Delights (7 performances)
  • Happenstanced presented Pipermonkey (5 performances)
  • It is so ordered: The Supreme Court’s Greatest Hits presented by American Civic Forum (3 performances)
  • NOW OR LATER presented by NEW EPIC THEATER
  • Penelope presented by Savage Umbrella
  • Pluck, Cluck, and Dumb Luck presented by Tall Tales Productions (3 performances)
  • Ray Bradbury’s Kaleidoscope presented by Wayward Theatre Company (2 performances)
  • RUNE presented by Vox Medusa
  • Snow Country presented by Minnehaha Productions
  • Sometimes There’s Wine presented by Shanan Custer & Carolyn Pool
  • Suite Surrender presented by PZ Productions (4 performances)
  • There’s No Coffee in Heaven presented by Jayme Allen
  • Twice presented by Its Time Productions (6 performances)
  • Wolf Tales presented by DanceCo (3 performances)
  • You Suck presented by Tinker-2-Evers-2-Chance (4 performances)

The 24th annual Minnesota Fringe will be held Aug. 3-13, 2017.

Basil Considine

Basil Considine is the Performing Arts Editor and Senior Classical Music and Drama Critic at the Twin Cities Arts Reader. He was previously the Resident Classical Music and Drama Critic at the Twin Cities Daily Planet and a contributing writer for The Boston Music Intelligencer. He holds a PhD in Music and Drama from Boston University, an MTS in Sacred Music from the BU School of Theology, and a BA in Music and Theatre from the University of San Diego.

Basil was named one of Musical America‘s 30 Professionals of the Year in 2017.

http://basilconsidine.org