In the wake of Pier Six Concert Pavilion's sudden cancellation of last night's show, the amphitheater's management has begun to take a hard look at its schedule and consider measures to prevent more cancellations.
Pier Six has held eight shows since reopening July 25 with almost 1,200 additional seats as part of a $4.9-million renovation. It has lost money on all but two acts -- John Denver and Patti LaBelle -- and it just broke even on those, managers said.
Managers of Pier Six and the Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts, the non-profit organization that owns and manages the pavilion, will hold meetings this week to discuss soft ticket sales of the bulk of the season's shows, according to Karen Ritgert, Pier Six general manager.
"We have hit advertising hard this year, especially radio advertising, and there just hasn't been any response," Ritgert said. "We want to see what we can do better to promote the shows and give them a chance to work."
Despite promotional efforts, the "A Night on the Town" concert that was to feature singers James Ingram and Patti Austin sold only 748 tickets.
The expanded amphitheater holds 4,300 seats.
Pier Six announced the cancellation the same day the show was to take place. Facility manager John Wright, who does much of the booking, said that a last-minute cancellation won't happen again.
"The last thing you ever want to do is cancel a show," he said. "We wanted to give the Ingram show every opportunity to work. There was no movement in sales and there was nothing left for us to do."
Of the venue's remaining 21 shows, Ritgert said, sales are slow "on the bulk of them, with the exception of Reba McEntire [Aug. 16] and Anne Murray [Aug. 20]. That doesn't mean any of the shows will be canceled, but we have worries about covering the costs for most of them."
Pier Six's plight is not unlike that of other outdoor facilities, including Merriweather Post Pavilion, which have struggled with sluggish sales.
Ticket prices have increased during the past few seasons, a factor that may affect sales. Last year's highest ticket price at Pier Six was $28.50.
Patti LaBelle's shows this past weekend were $32.50 and Ritgert said the second show sold just 1,600
"Our ticket prices are in line with what is happening nationally," she said. "The problem is that the acts look at the size of the venue and the gross potential and speculate ev
erything around the show being a sellout. The promoter, which is us, takes all of the risk."
The recent renovation and expansion at Pier Six was financed through a $500,000 grant from the
state, a $500,000 loan from the city and $3.9 million in borrowed funds.
Pier Six's season continues tomorrow with "The World Beat Tour," featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo.