Adelaide’s festivals report a bumper Mad March

The Fringe has already sold a record 930,000 tickets and Adelaide Festival has well exceeded its 2023 box office target ahead of the final weekend of South Australia’s ‘Mad March’ festival season.

Mar 17, 2023, updated Mar 17, 2023
Fringe-goers in the Garden of Unearthly Delights. Photo: Andre Castellucci

Fringe-goers in the Garden of Unearthly Delights. Photo: Andre Castellucci

Fringe ticket sales this year are well ahead of the previous record of 853,419 set in 2020. However, Fringe director and CEO Heather Croall said it will still require a “blockbuster” final weekend to reach its long-mooted goal to become the first Australian event or festival to sell one million tickets.

“We need to sell 70,000 tickets this weekend, which is not impossible,” Croall told a media call this morning. “We normally do see about 20 to 25,000 on a Friday, 25,000 or more on a Saturday… and about 15,000 on Sunday.

“It does require everybody to get out and help us – we can only do this if everybody who loves Fringe comes out and sees another show.”

The total value of Fringe tickets sold this year has reached $23.5 million, Croall said, up from $21 million last year.

She added that there have been three million Fringe attendances over the last four weeks when including free events.

Croall said around 42 to 44 per cent of the Fringe’s total ticket inventory has been sold – a number she would like to see improve in 2024.

“I just can’t underline enough that ticket sales are what makes the artists and venues recoup their money for putting on the shows. We also give out small grants… but those small grants don’t cover anything like the cost of the show, so they have to still sell a lot of tickets to cover the cost.

“We have about two million tickets available for sale, and so what we would love to see is more and more of the percentage of the ticket inventory, more percentage of the house with bums on seats.”

Meanwhile, with two days still to go, Adelaide Festival said that more than 239,280 people have attended its ticketed and free events (including last weekend’s WOMADelaide), with interstate audiences buying 25 per cent of tickets.

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The Festival has already exceeded its box office target of $5,186,200, achieving a result so far of $5,886,972 (excluding WOMADelaide) ­– just short of its highest-ever box-office figure of $5.9 million in 2019.

“This has simply been one of the best Adelaide Festivals – we achieved an incredible box office, huge attendances, and the overwhelming response from audiences in South Australia and across the country has been phenomenal,” chair Judy Potter said this morning.

More than 4000 people attended the Adelaide Festival’s free opening night show featuring Spinifex Gum. Photo: Andrew Beveridge

The 17-day Adelaide Festival – initiated by former artistic directors Rachel Healy and Neil Armfield and presented by new artistic director Ruth Mackenzie and chief executive Kath M Mainland – featured 893 artists from 18 countries, and 52 events across music, opera, dance, film and visual arts.

Seven shows sold out, including centrepiece Messa da Requiem, and the highest-selling productions included last night’s performance by pop star Lorde, Sydney Theatre Company’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and My Hyde, and all-ages physical theatre show Air Play (which is continues across this weekend).

More than 45,968 visitors have attended free Adelaide Festival shows, including 4000-plus at the Spinifex Gum opening night concert in Elder Park and 17,000 across the six days of Adelaide Writers’ Week in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.

Although there was controversy surrounding two of the Palestinian writers speaking at this year’s Writers’ Week, director Louise Adler said those attending were “collectively informed, provoked and entertained”.

“What a pleasure it was to see bibliophiles turn out in their thousands, starting each morning at 8am for Breakfast with Papers hosted by the inimitable Tom Wright, through to a twilight version of Insiders, and an Under the Covers session hosted by the conversationalists without parallel ­– Richard Fidler and Sarah Kanowski,” Adler said in a statement.

“The Premier of South Australia reminded us that politicians shouldn’t meddle in cultural matters, Sir David Hare recalled for us the impact of COVID, Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich took us into the soul of Homo Sovieticus, Mohammed El-Kurd shared his poetry and his pain, and John Banville took a moment to tell us that ‘art is a serious business, but solemnity is the death of art’.”

The 2023 Adelaide Festival ends on Sunday, with closing-weekend performances including the Australian premiere of Canadian company Kidd Pivot’s dance-theatre work Revisor, acclaimed solo theatre performance Maureen: Harbinger of Death, and Australian Dance Theatre’s Tracker.

Read full coverage of the 2023 festival season on InReview, including reviews of Adelaide Festival shows (here) and more than 50 Fringe shows (here).

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