The holidays in Tulsa are widely associated with annual productions like Tulsa Ballet's The Nutcracker and American Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol.
Events like these, which continue to sellout year after year, no matter how many years they're performed, are traditions in Tulsa, and the organizations that produce these events depend on their patrons' consistency to fund other productions and events.
This, year, however, a fierce new competitor is vying for Tulsans' ticket dollars. The BOK Center, 200 N. Denver Ave., celebrates its first holiday season in Tulsa with three events-- Cirque de Soleil's Saltimbanco December 10-14, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular December 22-24 and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra on December 29.
The Saltimbanco performances directly coincide with The Nutcracker, December 13-14 and 18-21, and ATC's A Christmas Carol, December 11-14 and 16-23, and The Santaland Diaries, December 12-14 and 17-20, all performed at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. 2nd St., leaving some to wonder whether or not patrons' pockets stretch deeply enough to afford tickets to more than one event and if the BOK performances could steal business from area arts non-profits.
Both TB artistic director Marcello Angelini and Tulsa PAC executive director John Scott lauded the opening of the BOK Center, saying they welcome a new entertainment venue that encourages Tulsans to travel downtown for events.
"We're happy the BOK Center is having a positive effect on our city," said Scott. "Of course, the PAC has been attracting people to its events for 31 years. But it's nice the 'new kid on the block' is now open and doing its part."
"I still believe that getting Tulsans used to identifying downtown with the entertainment district of our city is a big plus for all performing arts organizations," Angelini said. "In Europe, and in the major U.S. cities, people know where entertainment resides. As an example, in New York there is Broadway or Lincoln Plaza, (where people can choose from) Broadway shows or the opera, ballet or New York City Ballet.
"By the same token, it is true that, this year, we have a lot of competition for our major show of the year."
Enough to Go Around
Scott and Angelini both expressed some concern about how the BOK holiday shows would affect ticket sales for events at the PAC.
"The theory out there is that there's only so much money to go around for leisure entertainment and any new venue coming on line further dilutes that pool of dollars," said Scott. "In these first few months, I think we've seen some crossing over where PAC patrons are attending BOK Center events instead of PAC events. Eventually, however, I believe things will sort themselves out to where we'll retain our loyal customers."
Scott said, though, that fluctuating ticket sales can be attributed to current economic situations as well as the opening of the BOK Center. He also cited a sell-out performance by the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra and solid performances by Celebrity Attractions' The Rat Pack as evidence that PAC patrons are loyal to and appreciative of PAC events.
However, he shared, "I can't speak for any PAC clients, but I am concerned this year for Tulsa Ballet's annual production of The Nutcracker... Tulsa Ballet relies on strong sales for The Nutcracker to help form a solid cash base throughout the year. Add the Radio City Spectacular show at the BOK Center immediately after The Nutcracker closes, and it's a tough squeeze for Tulsa Ballet.
"On the positive side, the BOK Center and Tulsa Ballet are working to put together some ticket packages to cross-promote each other's shows."
Angelini said TB's sales for The Nutcracker are ahead of what they were last year at this time.
But, he's not breathing easy just yet.
"Other ballet companies in the country have lost their shirts to the Rockettes; some of them are still trying to recover from the deficit they accumulated in one year when the Rockettes first came to town," Angelini said. "We hope not to be in the same situation. But again, so far, so good..."
At the same time, Casey Sparks, director of sales and marketing for SMG Tulsa, the company responsible for booking acts at the BOK Center, said support for the BOK Center's holiday events has been "incredible and continues to exceed expectations." She said ticket sales have been "great," but it's too early to tell whether or not any of the events will sell out.
When asked if she thinks the BOK Center's holiday events pose a threat to traditional PAC events, Sparks said, "Every large city has competing events. Those shows are traditions in the market and have a huge following."
She said she has not heard of the BOK events affecting PAC ticket sales in a negative way.
"It is good to give Tulsans variety," Sparks said. "That is why the BOK Center was built--to bring in the big shows and improve the quality of life for this area and the surrounding areas."
Whether or not the people living in these areas will choose to attend nationally-touring events in the shiny, silver new center or stick to what they know and love remains to be seen.
Perhaps the BOK Center will affect ticket sales to events like The Nutcracker, but whether or not it is strong enough to have a significant impact is still unknown. And though folks are struggling financially around the country, perhaps the recent break in gas prices will prompt locals to spend the money they're saving at the tank on some good, ol' holiday entertainment.
So, maybe, just maybe, Tulsa is big enough to support multiple venues showcasing seasonal entertainment. Tulsans can now take advantage of new acts and shows at the BOK Center and still venture to the annual classics at the PAC. The more the merrier this Christmas, right?
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