Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Morning Midway: California Welfare Handouts Helping Boost Sagging Cirque du Soleil Vegas Ticket Sales?

Reported today in the Los Angeles Times, millions of dollars in welfare aid to California's allegedly "neediest" are ending up on Vegas tables, and, presumably, over the counters for show tickets. The latter option no doubt includes Cirque du Soleil's many Vegas shows.

Added to this revelation is news (nothing new, really, but severe in degree) that Vegas itself continues to suffer its worst economic depression since the slot machines sprang up in the hot desert in the 1940s. The New York Times trailing this ominous saga reporting Nevada unemployment at 14.4 percent, highest in the nation. Along the strip, figure reaches 14.7 percent. (The figure was 3.8 percent ten years ago.) Plaza Hotel and Casino, symptomatic of dire times, laying off 400 workers, shutting off its rooms and parts of its casino for "eventual renovation." Said to be "the lataest high-profile hit" in a city that's seen a "a steady parade of them."

So far in 2010, bright rebounding news was followed by a reversal of modest fortunes. Following grinding months of "precipitous declines," revenues rose by 3 percent during the first quarter, only to be wiped out and worsened by a cruel and cracking 5 percent drop in the second quarter.

August marked the 44th consecutive month for Nevada leading the nation in housing foreclosures.

And, what of the out-of-towners needed to play the slots, deal the cards, and snatch up the Cirque tickets? CDS still offering discounts. So far, all its shows appear to be staying the course.

On a larger note, one might well wonder how well Cirque advances its public image -- which translates into ticket sales -- by touring damaged goods (Banana Shpeel), by steeply discounted tickets, and by continuing to saturate markets with more new Cirque shows.

Ticket prices: On one website, VegasView.Com, Cirque's tickets among virtually all Vegas shows hold the higher priced positions. Very impressive to the roaming eye. Perhaps a shrewd marketing ploy, for Cirque du Soleil's own website offers a number of enticing discounts, including tickets starting at just $50.00 for all but one ("O") of their seven shows. Obviously, here is evidence that the Montreal monster has also been hit hard by the Great Recession. Tantamount to Ringling offering $10 ducats to the Garden.

Moody's Investors Service senior VP Keith Foley told the Times, "Don't automatically assume that when the economy comes back people will start gaming at the same level. We put this in the grand scheme of of things. This is a highly discretionary form of spending. People lost their savings."

So now, they're cashing in their food stamps for a ticket to Believe?

[photo at top: City Center, conceived before the economic downturn, by Monica Almeida/The New York Times]

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