Monday, February 23, 2015

Figure skating

Te Papa is pretty pleased with itself over the numbers for its dinosaur show. The new CE Rick Ellis was thrilled/relieved to announce that the 'hugely popular' exhibition had drawn 'massive crowds'.  Turns out that 120,000 people visited the exhibition over 130 days. Unfortunately there was no mention of the daily average that is usually part of Te Papa announcements of this kind but we can figure that out at around 923 a day. Tyrannosaurs Meet the Family had a long season (over a third of a year), including sucking up the entire summer holidays and probably owes about a third of its attendance to the ‘C’ word – cruise ships. For context here are the top Te Papa blockbuster shows in order of ticket sale matched attendances.

Lord of the Rings (2002-03) 219,539
Monet and the Impressionists (2009) 152,000
A Day in Pompeii (2009-10) 130,000
Egypt: Beyond the Tomb (2006-07) 120,358
Tyrannosaurs (2014-15) 120,000
Constable (2006) 98,328

And by average daily rates-

Lord of the Rings 1770 per day
Monet and the Impressionists 1652 per day
Constable 1035 per day
A Day in Pompeii 1023 per day
Tyrannosaurs 923 per day
Egypt: Beyond the tomb 918 per day

And talking daily averages, let's not forget the performance of a couple of homegrown, free attendance exhibitions: Rita Angus (2008) with 127,812 visitors at an average of 1,374 per day and Brian Brake (2010-11) at 190,000 with a daily average of just under 1,000. And, ok, the giant squid.

So what do these numbers show? Well, while Te Papa has had some solid blockbusters it's very tough to do year after year, and looking at the last five years it’s getting tougher. Audiences have more choices now and maybe the novelty has worn off. But one thing you can read loud and clear from the figures, if you want big audiences, don't even think outside the tourist season.
Sources: Te Papa Annual reports and media releases