The debut Adelaide Festival from Joint Artistic Directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy concludes today with a bang, setting a new record with the biggest box office takings in the event’s 57-year history.
With a curated program of 31 theatre, music, opera, dance, film and visual arts events, and a range of extra events from lunches to live concerts in the Riverbank Palais festival hub, the 2017 Festival achieved a total box office income in excess of $4.08 million, the biggest since the Festival’s inception in 1960. (All figures exclude WOMADelaide)
Accrued over 20 days from the Festival’s first preview performances on February 28 through to March 19, the Festival’s box office total is up by 44 per cent and more than $1.2 million on last year, and is almost 25 per cent larger than the previous box office record of $3.1 million, set in 1992.
Attendances were also up, with a total audience of more than 284,400 across all Festival events, a seven per cent increase on last year’s attendance of 265,935.
Ticketed attendances across the program were up by 8.6 per cent on last year, with audiences of more than 86,400 across 41 ticketed events, compared to 79,500 in 2016.
Attendances across free and unticketed events were also up this year, with audiences of more than 198,000 taking in the free visual art exhibitions at the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Samstag Museum, as well as the daily free events program on board the Riverbank Palais and in surrounding Parc Palais, including a near-capacity crowd of 14,900 for the opening weekend Neil Finn concert on March 5.
Included in this is Adelaide Writers’ Week which attracted a record crowd of more than 134,000 to the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens for 102 free sessions over six days from March 4 to 9, an increase on last year’s attendance figure of 132,000.
The 2017 Adelaide Festival concludes tonight (Sunday March 19) with a free public party on the Riverbank Palais from 5.30pm to midnight featuring live jazz by Adelaide’s own Lyndon Gray and the Mixed Blessings, and DJ sets by House of Beige DJs and Triple J’s Zan Rowe. In Parc Palais the incredible mirror maze House of Mirrors will remain for an additional week, open from 5.30pm to 11pm daily until Sunday March 26.
The Festival’s record breaking results are indicative of the ecstatic audience reception to the debut program from Mr Armfield and Ms Healy, with 10 shows selling out their seasons including Barrie Kosky’s masterpiece opera Saul, Canadian dance theatre work Betroffenheit, and Mr Armfield’s own production of The Secret River staged in the Anstey Hill quarry, which broke box office records for the State Theatre Company of South Australia as the highest grossing and fastest selling show in the company’s history.
Other sell out hits from the 2017 program included one night only concerts by Concerto Italiano, La Gaia Scienza and Rufus Wainwright, Lynette Wallworth’s film at the Adelaide Planetarium Coral: Rekindling Venus, Adelaide Writers’ Week lunch The Drunken Botanist at the Botanic Gardens Restaurant, and many events on the Riverbank Palais including Annabel Crabb’s The F Word, live concerts by Kurt Vile, Toro Y Moi and Hot 8 Brass Band, and Long Lunches hosted by top chefs Christine Manfield and Cheong Liew.
Mr Armfield and Ms Healy’s first Adelaide Festival, which draws to a close tonight (Sunday March 19), has not only been a roaring success at the box office but also critically, earning near unanimous acclaim for its world class program which featured 17 Australian premieres, 18 events exclusive to Adelaide and three world premieres.
Minister for the Arts, the Hon Jack Snelling said: “The record breaking box office, huge attendances and overwhelming critical acclaim have proven that the debut Festival from Artistic Directors Rachel Healy and Neil Armfield has been one of the best ever. From the epic operatic masterpiece of Barrie Kosky’s Saul to the groundbreaking staging of The Secret River in the stunning Anstey Hill quarry, and the beautiful Riverbank Palais lighting up the River Torrens, their world class program has truly put Adelaide in the spotlight as one of the world’s best and most exciting festival cities.”
Joint Artistic Directors Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy said: “Being Artistic Directors of this magnificent festival is a great privilege and we have been overwhelmed by the local, national and international response to our inaugural program. This festival’s success derives from the brilliance of the artists on our stages, the willingness of our audiences to trust our vision, the commitment of the Festival staff, and the energetic support of our state government and our many sponsors and benefactors.”
Adelaide Writers’ Week Director Laura Kroetsch said: “This year’s Writers’ Week was the most political I have produced, and it was politics that resonated with both the writers and the readers. In the beautiful Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden we all seemed to be aware that ours is an uncertain and often deeply unfair world. This year when we shared stories, we also shared tears, frustration and more than a little anger. I like to think that these conversations changed us, that they made us all a little better for having shared them, and that maybe as we continue our reading and thinking lives, those conversations will continue to provoke little revolutions here in Adelaide and out there in the wider world.”
Adelaide Festival Chair Judy Potter said: “Not only has this year’s Festival broken all box office records, but the overwhelmingly positive critical reception and increased attendances – especially from interstate and overseas visitors – show it has also been one of the most popular. The board congratulates Neil, Rachel and Laura on their unique and exciting programs, and looks forward to continuing in 2018 as Australia’s pre-eminent arts festival.”
Adelaide Festival CEO Sandy Verschoor said: “This incredible Festival is a brilliant chapter in 57 years of artistic excellence, as Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy continue to build on the extraordinary success of past directors and the talented Festival team. The 2017 Festival program has seamlessly intertwined old and new, juxtaposing tradition with innovation to both dazzle and inspire audiences to engage in robust discussion, conversations and the flow of ideas, and I look forward to what the next two years will bring.”
The 2017 Adelaide Festival featured:
500 performances across 58 free and ticketed events
180 sold-out performances and 10 sell-out seasons
17 Australian premieres
18 Adelaide exclusive events
Three world premieres, including two by South Australian companies – Backbone by Gravity and Other Myths and Intimate Space by Restless Dance Theatre
More than 750 artists and writers who travelled from over 15 countries including Germany, France, Italy, Iceland, Cuba, Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Argentina, Israel, Colombia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and USA.