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"From Broadway to concerts to comedy, we hope to be a bright spot and give area audiences the chance to escape into the magic and lasting memories that only live entertainment can create."

DPAC publicist Rachel Gragg answers our questions 

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: What is the seating breakdown between orchestra, grand tier and balcony? How many seats are in each?

RACHEL GRAGG: The best news is that there are so many great seats at DPAC. There are a variety of setups that affect the exact numbers, but generally there are about 1,500 orchestra seats, 500 in the grand tier and almost 800 in the balcony.

How widely will the offerings of DPAC be marketed? Across the entire state? Just our television market?

We have lined up very impactful partnerships with more than 20 of the major print, radio and TV stations in the region. Media support is so important to letting area audiences know about this exciting new venue. Every show has a different geographical scope and different media platforms that we will use. Our mission—to reach and attract audiences from Greensboro to the coast—involves traditional radio, TV, direct mail and print, plus various new media including e-mail database marketing and social networking.

Are you in any communications about bookings with Progress Energy Center in Raleigh, or is the relationship a competitive one?

The biggest competition for new any arts or entertainment venue is to find exciting new events that motivate people to simply get off the couch and go out. Our feedback is that guests rarely are picking Event A versus Event B. More often we will compete against everything people can do with their leisure time including shopping, travel, movies, outdoor sports and, yes, even ourselves since we will host more than 100 events a year. For us to be successful we need excite new audiences with a great diversity of new shows and a world-class backdrop of great hospitality.

Do you plan to continue partnering with local arts organizations like the Carolina Theatre and Hayti/ St. Joseph's to produce shows, at DPAC and other locations? Is there anything booked of this nature (beyond Caveman and B.B. King)?

DPAC's vision is to continue growing our relationships with local art organizations. We have just launched an outreach program called Durham—Heart of the Arts, which offers many ways that smaller arts groups can connect with our audiences online, in our direct mail, and through special events and displays right at DPAC. DPAC is also thrilled to be hosting Theatre in the Park's A Christmas Carol and working with the North Carolina Symphony on our Jim Brickman concert during the Grand Opening Month.

Given the absence of left and right speakers in the facility, what is the plan when touring acts, particularly musicians, require them?

We expect DPAC to be one of the best-sounding performing arts centers in America. Sound Associates of New York designed this system. Their work has been heralded across the country, making them one of the most prestigious sound companies in the industry. Our in-house system consists of state-of-the-art speakers and infrastructure designed to accommodate virtually any show on tour. All of the big shows, like all of our 2009 touring Broadway Musicals and concerts like Harry Connick Jr. and John Legend, always travel with their own speakers that audiences see to the left and right of the stage. For touring shows DPAC will be one of the most user-friendly performing arts centers in the country.

Our understanding of the break-even point for DPAC is that the facility plans to book 100 shows a year, and plans for 60 percent attendance with an average ticket price of $55-$60. Are these figures still accurate, and could you make them more precise?

We're very excited about the great diversity of shows we have coming to DPAC. When booking a show, every event stands on its own and each artist or promotion agreement is unique. Some shows can be very successful with just 1,500 tickets sold and others may have a goal of well over 2,000.

As of today, it appears that the theater is booked for 46 dates between Nov. 30 and May 17. How many dates do you expect to be ultimately booked during this time frame, and are you on target for it? How many dates do you hope to book for 2009, and are you on target for it?

In our first six months of operation we expect to host between 60 and 70 events in what is called our 2008-2009 Premiere Season. Our 2009-2010 season starts next September and will feature more than 100 events including direct from Broadway hits plus superstar concerts, comedy and family shows.

Will you announce any other bookings this week? If so, could you release that information to us with the understanding that we won't publish it until our Nov. 19 issue?

We are always working on great, unique and memorable events that DPAC can host. Area audiences can expect many exciting new announcements in the coming weeks and months.

How many season and single tickets have you sold for the SunTrust Broadway series? Are sales meeting expectations?

We expect to have more than 6,000 season ticket holders by opening night of Rent in January. These numbers place the SunTrust Broadway Series as one of the most successful new Broadway season tickets in America. We are ecstatic to already have had such a great response. After opening night we expect the positive word of mouth about our great shows, fantastic sound and wonderful sightlines to take these numbers even higher.

Could you give us a status report on the building naming rights? What is the asking price? Has the asking price changed?

It's an exciting opportunity and a great marketing vehicle for companies that want to reach the hundreds of thousands that will visit DPAC in coming years. The City of Durham is responsible for the marketing of those rights, and we're hopeful to help them in any way we can to bring a naming rights partner to DPAC.

DPAC is opening right as the economy is faltering. Obviously, that increases your challenges. How deeply is the economy affecting sales and sponsorships, and how is the marketing department responding?

Not to discount the challenges that lie ahead, but we are really pleased with both ticket sales and the positive feedback about this festive new home for live entertainment. With 500 more seats than any other large theater in the region, our ability to attract exciting new events that would normally bypass this area is unparalleled. From Broadway to concerts to comedy, we hope to be a bright spot and give area audiences the chance to escape into the magic and lasting memories that only live entertainment can create.

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@rmacneill: ! I just added a link to renderings. It's in the first sentence. Sorry for the delay, I'm a …

by Lisa Sorg, INDY Editor on Tower of Power (Durham County)

Thanks for covering this story - are there any renderings or plans of the tower available for public viewing?

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