In the ongoing debate about new theaters in Salt Lake City, Sandy and other parts of Salt Lake County , one argument against a new, larger theater appears repeatedly. Broadway shows perform in New York in theaters smaller than the Capitol Theatre, therefore we do not need a bigger theater in Salt Lake City .   A simple look at the facts readily disproves this and shows why Utah needs a new and bigger theater.   Capitol Theatre seats


In New York, the biggest Broadway theater is 1800 seats, about the same size as the Capitol Theatre.  The average theater in the Broadway theater district is about 1250 seats.    Why would Salt Lake City need a 2400-seat theater for Broadway shows when Broadway itself thrives in theaters smaller than the Capitol? The performing arts belong in smaller theaters where the audience is closer to the actors and the performance experience is better.



If Salt Lake City could run every touring Broadway show for six months to three years, smaller theaters could make economic sense.  But when most shows play SLC for one week and blockbusters play 3-12 weeks, financial success isn’t possible with 1250 seats.  Even a theater with 1850 seats like the Capitol is financially unattractive to the producers of shows such as Lion King.  Lion King opened on Broadway ten years ago and still hasn’t come to Utah because our largest theater has too few seats. 


The financial model for touring Broadway is quite different from non-profit opera, ballet or locally-produced theater.  Touring Broadway pays sales tax, does not receive ZAP tax subsidy, does not receive grants from public and private organizations and pays much higher theater rent.  These higher costs mean that each touring show must sell more seats to cover the costs of operations.  While a typical non-profit receives 50-70% of its revenue from subsidies and grants, almost 100% of revenue for a touring Broadway show must come from ticket sales. By paying higher rental rates and taxes, touring Broadway helps subsidize and support non-profit performing arts organizations.


Because it is much more difficult for producers to make a profit in an 1850 seat theater, the most popular touring shows bypass Utah and go to other, sometimes smaller cities that have theaters with more seats.   The difference between 1850 useable seats in the Capitol and, say, 2640 seats in Spokane is the difference between making money and breaking even for a show like Jersey Boys or Color Purple.   Audiences in Spokane and Oklahoma City have already seen Wicked and Lion King – years before Utah ticket buyers will have a chance.     Lansing, Michigan has less than half the population of the SLC metro area but has 2400 seats in the Cobb Great Hall.  In 2008-09 they will have their second visits from both Wicked and Lion King.  Some shows, such as the original production of Miss Saigon, never come to Utah because of the physical limitations of the Capitol Theatre. 


Almost every city over 100,000 population in Canada and the US, from Regina, Saskatchewan to El Paso, Texas, has a performing arts venue with more seats than the Capitol Theatre.


When Salt Lake City does host a major blockbuster to visit, ticket buyers pay a higher price than in most cities. 

Randy Weeks, president and chief operating officer of [the non-profit] Denver Centre for the Performing Arts….. is familiar with Salt Lake City. "Unfortunately, in the world of touring Broadway, the Capitol is becoming a little theater. It's just not quite big enough, unless you don't mind paying $125-$150 a ticket." Deseret News, 3/23/08


Most large and mid-sized cities in the US and Canada have have theaters in the 2000-3000 seat range (see list below).  None have a primary performing arts venue smaller than the Capitol.    Until we get a theater with more seats, Utah audiences will continue to be last in line to see the biggest and most popular musicals from Broadway.


Although it was grand in its time, the Capitol Theatre has other significant limitations and problems – small lobby space, poor sightlines, inadequate rest rooms, small stage, inadequate dressing room space, no loading dock and more. 


Touring shows [must] struggle with Capitol Theatre's limited backstage space and lack of loading docks. And every female theatergoer has tales of lengthy restroom wait times. Besides, as a theater built for vaudeville and later movies and not Broadway-style stage, many seats in the house have poor visibility — a disappointment to theatergoers after paying top ticket prices. - Deseret News, 3/23/08


Most importantly, SLC needs a state-of-the-art performing arts venue that is comparable to other theaters in the US and Canada.  Salt Lake City is a growing international urban center – growing in population, in economic activity and in the performing arts.  We need a performing arts center that will bring us into the 21st century and be competitive with the rest of the world – both in size and in technical capabilities.


                                                                John Ballard, May 2008




Peer Cities (Salt Lake venues are the smallest in capacity)


Appleton,  Fox Cities PAC  2070

Baltimore,  France-Merrick PAC  2232

Birmingham, BJCC  2814

CincinnatiAronoff Center  2623

ColumbusOhio Theatre  2747

Columbus,  Palace Theatre  2623 

Calgary,  Southern Jubilee  2525

Edmonton,  Northern Jubilee  2525 

Ft. LauderdaleBroward Center  2653

Fort Worth,  Bass Hall  2032

HonoluluBlaisdell Auditorium  2121

Jacksonville,  Moran Theatre  2856 

Kansas CityMusic Hall  2200 

LouisvilleKentucky Center  2479 

LouisvilleLouisville Palace  2645 

MadisonOverture Center  2216  

MilwaukeeUihlein Hall   2305

Norfolk,  Chrysler  2451

Omaha,  Orpheum Theater  2546

Orlando,  Bob Carr  2367

Ottawa,  National Arts Centre  2245

Portland,  Keller  2992

Salt Lake City,  Capitol Theatre  1917

Salt Lake City, Kingsbury Hall  1971

Saskatoon,  TCU Place  2027

Spokane,  INB PAC  2640

TampaMorsani Hall  2466 

TempeGammage  2797 

ToledoStranahan Theater  2409


Touring Broadway Venues


San Francisco, Curran  1667

Salt Lake City, Capitol Theatre  1917

Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Center  1970

Salt Lake City, Kingsbury Hall  1971

Albuquerque, Popejoy Auditorium  1985

St Petersburg, Mahaffey 2030

Fort Worth, Bass Hall  2032

Boise, Morrison Center  2040

Appleton, Fox Cities PAC  2070

Indianapolis, Clowes Hall  2074

Palm Beach, Kravis Center  2115

Minneapolis, State  2119

Honolulu, Blaisdell Auditorium  2121

Kansas City, Music Hall  2200

San Francisco, Orpheum  2203

Madison, Overture Center  2216

Baltimore, France-Merrick PAC  2232

Washington, DC Opera House  2294

San Francisco, Golden Gate  2297

Milwaukee, Uihlein Hall  2305

Fresno, Saroyan Theater  2343

Miami, Arsht CPA  2348

Orlando, Bob Carr  2367

Toledo, Stranahan Theater  2409

East Lansing, Cobb Great Hall  2420

Nashville, TPAC-Andrew Jackson Hall  2425

Norfolk, Chrysler  2451

Tampa, Morsani Hall  2466

Louisville, Kentucky Center  2479

Eugene, Hult Center  2487

Omaha, Orpheum Theater  2546

Minneapolis, Orpheum  2588

Boston, Opera House  2592

Indianapolis, Murat Theatre  2621

Cincinnati, Aronoff Center  2623

Columbus, Palace Theatre  2623

Houston, Hobby Center-Sarofim Hall  2637

Spokane, INB PAC  2640

Louisville, Louisville Palace  2645

Fort Lauderdale, Broward Center  2653

Cleveland, Palace Theatre  2658

Pittsburgh, Heinz  2663

Los Angeles, Pantages  2703

Des Moines Civic Center  2721

Columbu,s Ohio Theatre  2747

Tempe, Gammage  2797

Seattle, Paramount  2811

Birmingham, BJCC  2814

Pittsburgh, Benedum  2824

Jacksonville, Moran Theatre  2856

Akron, EJ Thomas  2863

San Antonio, Majestic  2911

Portland, Keller  2992

Costa Mesa, Orange County PAC  3034

Cleveland, State Theater  3194

Kalamazoo, Miller Auditorium  3483

Richmond, Landmark  3538

Atlanta, Fox Theatre  4480

Austin, UTPAC-Bass Concert Hall  4480

St. Louis, Fox  5060