The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra achieved record attendances in 2015 while posting a deficit. Chairman Michael Ullmer announced in the orchestra’s annual report that “ticket sales and revenues reached record levels, reflecting a paid capacity of 87% across core performances”. Total audiences across all programs were just over 330,000, compared with around 250,000 in 2014.
Despite this success, fewer top grossing shows put the brakes on MSO’s box office earnings. Ullmer commented: “the strong year of special projects in 2014, which included three of our top ten grossing projects ever (Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who and Ben Folds), was not repeated in 2015”. Ticket revenue was actually marginally up, from $10 million to $10.2 million, but increased operating costs meant the orchestra recorded a loss of $570,000. That compares with a surplus of almost $300,000 in the year before.
The year’s artistic highlights the orchestra’s continuing Mahler Cycle, world premiere performances of 17 new Australian works, and the extension of Sir Andrew Davis’s tenure as chief conductor through to 2019, said Ullmer.