After raising ticket prices for two consecutive seasons, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has seen its 2014-15 sales for Mellon Grand Classics drop from 61 percent of Heinz Hall capacity to 50 percent. The Pops series dropped from 62 to 56 percent.
Orchestras face many challenges in trying to fill their halls. Pittsburgh Symphony faces filling a particularly large hall, one with 2,662 seats for sale. Most orchestras in cities of comparable population play in smaller halls. Severance Hall in Cleveland seats 2,100, for example. Some larger cities than Pittsburgh also enjoy smaller halls, including Los Angeles at 2,265 and Dallas at 2,031.
Of course, Heinz Hall's large size is advantageous when sales are strong. The closest the symphony came this season to a sold-out house was 97 percent for the June 7 performance of the final Beethovenfest series, a concert featuring Ludwig van Beethoven's Violin Concerto and Symphony No. 9 conducted by Music Director Manfred Honeck.
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