Calendar Booking Process
The demand for theater space for live performances in Boulder has increased exponentially in the past two years. With the renovation of the Dairy’s theaters, that demand has become even more intense. As a result, it simply is not possible to satisfy all of the demand.
The Dairy has a responsibility to the City of Boulder to play a key role in helping make Boulder a true arts destination. We also have a responsibility to the citizens of Boulder to provide a venue where they can experience multi-disciplined arts that are most in demand and offer the highest values. Enacting a lottery system to determine who gets first access to booking dates in our theaters is simply not appropriate or aligned with these responsibilities.
The way we can best serve the arts community, the people of Boulder, and the City of Boulder is to adhere to a process that seeks to identify those presenting organizations that consistently offer the quality of experience most desired by Boulder audiences. At the same time, we want to make certain there is also space for other presenters during the year, and that our live performance theaters offer patrons a multi-disciplined mix of arts including live theater, dance, and music.
To that end, we implemented a Calendar Booking Process that is driven by the identification of “Partner Presenters” who gain priority access in choosing the dates each year of their performances. Given the number of performance dates that are most popular among presenting organizations and the limitations of our theaters, the Dairy has limited our Partners to 3 Live Theater Partners and 3 Dance Partners.
The Theater Partners share the Grace Gamm Theater and the Carsen Theater. The Dance Partners share the Gordon Gamm Theater.
The history of the Dairy included what were called “Resident Organizations” who by virtue of the fact they were here first and/or had office space here, were given priority to booking our theaters. That approach simply became ineffective as the competition among performing organizations has grown significantly in Boulder.
The process is based on identifying the organizations that best meet the following criteria:
- Reputation in the community through quality of reviews
Public recognition and industry awards
- Historical ticket sales volume (indicating public demand)
- History of uniqueness of content and/or style
- Ability to attract new audiences to the Dairy, and to Boulder
- Potential for attracting diverse audiences
- Demonstrated marketing expertise
- Suitability to the spaces available at the Dairy
- Range of works performed
- Consistently high quality production values
A Dairy management team (with possible input from community and Board members) reviews the Partner Organizations every two years relative to these criteria. In addition, the criteria will be communicated on the Dairy website, inviting other organizations to submit an application demonstrating how well they meet these criteria. These applications are also considered as part of the review process.
All Partner Organizations are notified when the booking calendar for the next season is available for requesting dates. There is a deadline by which all requests must be received.
After that date, the opening of the calendar is communicated to the general arts community, giving all other local organizations an opportunity to book at the Dairy. These performances are booked into the calendar on a first-response basis until all dates are filled.
Even with this “system” there is still competition among even the partner organizations for specific dates in specific theaters. If two companies want to perform in the Grace during the same five week period, for example, Dairy Management will make the final decision based on fairness of theater usage, timing, and equitable marketing opportunities.
Partner Organizations with Calendar Priority
The Grace Gamm Theater and Carsen Theater are shared (and negotiated) by the following three live theater organizations:
- Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company
- Local Theater
The Gordon Gamm Theater is shared (and negotiated) by the following three dance companies:
- Boulder Ballet
- Frequent Flyers
- 3rd Law Dance Theater
Their status of partner organizations will be up for review in Spring, 2018.
The Dairy Arts Center is not only a venue, but also a producer. We offer Music performances to round out the theater, dance, cinema, and visual art experiences also available at the Dairy. The music we offer is unique to Boulder, not duplicative of other music ensembles or venues, and as such adds value to Boulder as an arts destination.
The Gordon Gamm Theater is the only theater venue appropriate for most music performances, which means the Dairy also competes for dates in the Gordon with our three Dance Partners. It is our intent to only insert our own programming into dates unclaimed by our Dance Partners, but before the Gordon calendar is opened up to the general arts community. That assures a healthy mix of arts disciplines here.
Venue Rental Strategy
While the Dairy has a responsibility for assuring outstanding arts experiences for Boulder patrons, while also trying to support other and emerging performing groups, we also have a very real and constant need to be operationally viable. We have to be sustainable, which means all the ways we can generate revenue must be maximized. Without significant City operational support, earned revenue must be a high priority.
Obviously, historical ability to sell tickets is a strategically important criterion for determining Partner Organizations. Demonstrated marketing expertise is also of obvious importance because that is key to selling tickets, but also to furthering awareness of the Dairy among that organization’s publics, while also helping expose Boulder to more people as a desirable arts destination.
Ticket sales are critical to our sustainability because they help fund our ability to provide a one-stop ticket buying experience for everything that happens at the Dairy for all patrons. The fees we garner from tickets we sell on behalf of our presenters are a critical component of our earned revenue.
Likewise, the more people coming to performances here, the higher the potential of selling food and beverages in our Polk Café. All revenue from the Polk Café goes to the bottom line of the Dairy.
Our Calendar Booking Process, therefore, is inherently connected with our sustainability strategy.