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Zoellner bucks national trend with record year

All across the country, performing arts organizations are bleeding more red ink than usual, due in large part to decreases in season subscriptions, increasing competition for disposable income, and uncertain economic times.

Despite a national downward trend, Lehigh’s Zoellner Arts Center has just completed another record-breaking year.

In these times of economic instability, audiences are shifting toward last-minute, single-ticket sales, leaving the financial structures of the productions wavering.

Zoellner, just completing its sixth season, is reporting an increase in season subscriptions of 2 percent over last year, rising from 47 percent of total sales in 2001-02 to 49 percent of total sales in 2002-03.

In addition to subscriptions, overall ticket sales increased 12 percent this year, extending to more than 37,000 patrons for its Guest Artist, Music Department and Department of Theatre performances. Music Department sales increased 20 percent, the Guest Artist series by 10 percent and ticket sales for Theatre Department events increased 1 percent. In addition, the Lehigh University Art Galleries, housed in Zoellner, exhibited a 69 percent increase in visitors over last year, heightening its patrons from 4,900 in 2001-02 to 8,300 in 2002-03.

`A total experience’

Elizabeth Scofield, managing director for Zoellner, says the growth has been consistent over the past several years, despite the national trend. "Many organizations are finding it more difficult to sell their larger subscription packages," she says. "We are particularly pleased with these increases in light of the stagnated economy."

Scofield credits a great line-up of more than 75 events, including 19 guest artists, 42 Music Department performances and 10 Department of Theatre events, but says there is even more to why Zoellner is bucking the downward trend.

"It's not only about getting a seat at a great performance anymore. People demand a total experience," Scofield says. "We create a great ambiance here. It might start with the dinner partnerships we have arranged with four local restaurants, then it moves to the free parking next door in the covered deck and then on to interesting pre-show lectures or events about the performance topic."

All this, Scofield says, creates that total experience, giving patrons reasons to return, and driving ticket and subscription sales.

For more information visit www.lehigh.edu/zoellner or call (610) 758-2787 (7LU-ARTS).

--Andrew Stanten
amsr@lehigh.edu
and Lindsay McFillin
lamb@lehigh.edu

Posted on Tuesday, May 27, 2003

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