Overview of the Daily Registers – Evolution of Ticket Prices

Evolution of Ticket Prices

Preliminary note: These remarks made about the entire period are merely indicative. They refer to tendencies, dominant traits, and generally observed changes, but there are numerous exceptions, some of which may not be reflected here. Only the study of a particular season can bring out all these subtleties. Furthermore, the study was systematically conducted on the individual tickets that were sold, but not on the loges whose prices vary much more often. Again, only the major facts were taken into account. Note, for example, that atypical rates can also be found.

To get a more accurate view of the evolution of the audience halls, which is an important point to relate to changes in pricing, see the article by Jeff Ravel.

The registers reflect the pricing policy of the theater. In terms of the categorization of individual seats, there is a transition in the years 1680-1686 to localized categories (places on the stage, front row, seats at the amphitheater, boxes, second boxes, third boxes, in the pit), to priced categories (high boxes, low boxes, and all kinds of “tickets at [a certain price]”), then back to localized categories from the 1760s on, with an increase in complexity.

1792

The price of seats is influenced by external events (move to a new playhouse, new taxes, crises). Nevertheless, one can detect certain pricing strategies specific to theater, which allows for the scrupulous and chronological observation of the pages of the registers.

Price Instability: 1680-1702

Théâtre de l’Hôtel Guénégaud

The period of 1680-1686 (from 1680 to the 1685-1686 season) is characterized by a variability of prices, especially in the loges. The rates which seem to dominate are the following:

1680-1686

Stage Seats

3

First Loges

3

Amphitheater

3

Loge (variable rates, probably collective)

-

Second Loges

1 L 10 s

Third Loges

1 L

Pit

15 s

During the next three seasons, from 1686-1687 to1688-1689, the actors set two price categories which we will call “discount price” and “full price” for convenience. The full price corresponds to the most commonly used price in the previous period. Both of the prices are equally used during this period.

1686-1689


Discount Price

Full Price

Loges

Not specifically mentioned

Not specifically mentioned

Tickets at

3 L

3 L

Tickets at

30 s

1 L 10 s

Tickets at

20 s

1 L

Tickets at

15 s

15 s

Théâtre de la rue des Fossés Saint-Germain

At the opening of the 1689-1690 season, on April 18th 1689, the actors moved into a new theater on the Fossés Saint-Germain street. From 1689 to 1699, the two previous types of prices are charged, with variations on the loge prices.

1689-1699


Discount Price

Full Price

Loges

Variable Prices

Variable Prices

Tickets at

3 L

3 L

Tickets at

30 s

1 L 10 s

Tickets at

20 s

1 L

Tickets at

15 s

15 s

Over this period, the discount price gradually becomes dominant from the 1690-1691 season on. The full price is charged during the opening and closing of the season, and for new plays.

Nevertheless, the study of prices can be perplexing and the alternation of the two prices sometimes seems anarchic. Several hypotheses can be formulated. First hypothesis: the actors seem to charge the high price when the costs of production are high (especially for plays with entertainment by Dancourt). Second hypothesis: the public may have become used to paying less and deserted the room when the full price was charged, prompting the actors to charge the discount rate as the regular one, though they sometimes try to break this tendency. One feels in fact, on observing the registers, that the actors sometimes try to “confuse” the public by alternating between the full and discount prices for the same play: for example, Le Dépit amoureux in June 1696, a play that does not require significant expenses and for which it so happens that the full price is charged. These fluctuations support our theory of a pricing strategy.

External data disrupts this reflection : it was decreed on 25 February 1699 that the troupe would be required to pay one sixth of their revenues to the General Hospital (Lagrave, 1972). Prices then increased accordingly:

February-Easter 1699


Discount Price

Full Price

Loges

Variable Prices

Variable Prices

Tickets at

3 L 12 s

3 L 12 s

Tickets at

36 s

1 L 16 s

Tickets at

24 s

1 L 4 s

Tickets at

18 s

18 s

At the beginning of the 1699-1700 season, the full price becomes the only price; it is slightly modified on 4 January 1700. During this entire season, the actors therefore try to impose a single price corresponding to the full price.

1699-1700


Single Price at the Beginning of the Season

Single Price from 4 January 1700 onwards

Loges

Variable Prices

Variable Prices

Tickets at

3 L 12 s

3 L 11 s

Tickets at

1 L 16 s

1 L 15 s

Tickets at

1 L 4 s

1 L 4 s

Tickets at

18 s

17 s

From 1700 to 1702, the actors give up on the single price and return to the alternation of full and discount prices, depending on the circumstances. These prices experience subtle changes.

1700-1702


Discount Price

Full Price

Loges

Variable Prices

Variable Prices

Tickets at

3 L 9 s, then 3 L 8 s, 3 L 7 s, 3 L 6 s, 3 L 4 s

3 L 9 s, then 3 L 7 s, 3 L 6 s, 3 L 4 s

Tickets at

34 s, then 37 s, 33 s, 32 s

1 L 14 s, then 1 L 12 s, 1 L 4 s

Tickets at

24 s

1 L 4 s

Tickets at

17 s, then 16 s

17 s, then 16 s

Stability of Prices: 1702-1714

From the 1702-1703 season to 13 February 1714 prices become remarkably stable again, apart from a few extraordinary performances that require more resources than ordinary ones- which affects the price of the ticket (for Circé or even Psyché)

1702-1703 to 13 February 1714


Ordinary Price

Unusual Performances

Lower Loges at

30 L

60 L

Upper Loges at

15 L

30 L

Tickets at

3 L 12 s

7 L 4 s

Tickets at

1 L 16 s

3 L 12 s

Tickets at

1 L 4 s

48 s ou 2 L 8 s

Tickets at

18 s

36 s ou 1 L 16 s

Instability: 1714-1721

From 13 February 1714 on, prices vary very slightly and return to their previous value, but a new ticket category, more expensive and variable, appears. The ordinary rate frequently prevails.

1713-1714 and 1714-1715


Ordinary Price from 13 February 1714

Then

Lower Loges at

30 L

30 L

Higher Loges at

15 L

15 L

Tickets at

-

4 L10 s ou 4 L 5 s ou 6 L 7 s ou 8 L 5 s

Tickets at

3 L 11 s 3 d

3 L 12 s

Tickets at

1 L 17 s 6 d

1 L 16 s

Tickets at

1 L 3 s 9 d

1 L 4 s

Tickets at


18 s

18 s

From 1715 to 1721, we return to a period of price instability. Two factors might explain these variations : the forced donation of a portion of the proceeds to the poor from 5 February 1716, a royally-mandated practice that taxes the revenue and causes a rise in prices, and the bankruptcy of Law which makes prices fluctuate around 1720-1721.

The 1715-1716 season was marked by several changes in prices and strategies, particularly due to the introduction of the poor "tax:" it is interesting to note that the price of a ticket to the pit rises to 1 Livre when it had previously never exceeded 18 sols (or sous) .

1715-1716


Season début

Then

10 February 1716 : 2 rates, discount and full

Lower Loges at

30 L

30 L

32 L

40 L

Upper Loges at

15 L

15 L

16 L

20 L

Tickets at

5 L 12 s

5 L 8 s

-

-

Tickets at

3 L 15 s

3 L 12 s

4 L

5 L

Tickets at

1 L 17 s

1 L 16 s

2 L

2 L 10 s

Tickets at

1 L 4 s

1 L 4 s

1 L 8 s

1 L 10 s

Tickets at

18 s

18 s

1 L

1 L

From 1716 to 1719, prices return to stability. In 1718-1719, the actors reestablish the full price ticket category. In 1719-1720, they restore dual pricing, full and discount : the full price is very frequently used at the time of the bankruptcy of Law. The result is record but cyclical revenue levels, which we will see again only on the eve of the Revolution.


1716-1717 and

1717-1718

1718-1719

1719-1720

Discount Rate Full Rate

3 October 1720

New Discount Rate

29 April 1721

Return to the pre-Bubble Rate

Lower Loges at

32 L

32 L

40 L

64 L

40 L


Upper Loges at

16 L

16 L

20 L

32 L

20 L


Tickets at

-

6 L

-

-

-


Tickets at

4 L

4 L

4 L

8 L

5 L

4 L

Tickets at

2 L

2 L

2 L

4 L

2 L 10 s

2 L

Tickets at

1 L 8 s

1 L 8 s

1 L 10 s

3 L

1 L 10 s

1 L 10 s

Tickets at

1 L

1 L

1 L

2 L

1 L 5 s

1 L

Price Stability: 1721-1758

From 1721-1722 to 1732-1733, prices become absolutely stable. In 1732-1733, a full price appears again, especially for Voltaire plays. These prices stay more or less stable until 1758.


1721-1732

1732-1758

Discount Price Full Price

Lower Loges at

32 L

32 L

48 L

Upper Loges at

20 L

20 L

24 L or 30 L

Tickets at

4 L

4 L

6 L

Tickets at

2 L

2 L

3 L

Tickets at

1 L 10 s

1 L 10 s

2 L

Tickets at

1 L

1 L

1 L

Towards greater complexity of pricing related to diversification of the types of loges: 1759-1770

In this period, the actors change their theater, building boxes and balconies where possible. The most important of the changes : at the beginning of 1759, the stage is stripped of the benches where spectators sit on the stage. Some loges or “little loges” could be rented by subscription for periods of varying length. These new revenues were not included in the daily revenues.

In 1758-1759 “half-loges” appear in the register and the following season we find “balconies,” whose prices vary greatly. From 1765-1766 on, various types of “little loges” at different prices could be rented for the performance.

Théâtre des Tuileries : 1770-1782

An astonishing document addresses the equivalence of seats, prices and revenues between the Tuileries Theater, temporary playhouse occupied by the troupe while waiting for the completion of their new theater, and the future playhouse in the Faubourg Saint-Germain. This table shows all the types of seats and the number of seats per loge, which is unusual since this data remains unknown for most periods.


The price of the loges varies from 10 to 72 L for full prices and 10 to 32 L for discount prices, but the prices are characterized above all by their variability. Individual tickets however, are still sold at the same price:

Salle des Tuileries, 1770-1782


Discount Price

Full Price

Loges : many categories at variable rates

First Loge Seats

4 L

6 L

Second Loge Seats

2 L

3 L

Third Loge Seats

1 L 10 s

2 L

Ticket in the Pit

1 L

1 L

Théâtre-Français au Faubourg Saint-Germain : 1782-1793

At the opening of the 1782-1783 season, the troupe opened a new playhouse in which spectators in the pit are seated. The cheapest seats are now those of the "paradise," but their price is higher than that of the pit in the previous playhouse. Ticket prices remain identical until 1791, when lower prices are restored for the spectators in the pit, now renamed “parquet.”


Ticket Prices in 1782

Ticket Prices in 1791

Loges : many categories at variable rates

First Loge Seats

6 L

6 L

Gallery Seating

4 L

4 L

Second Loge Seats

3 L

3 L

Seated Pit

2 L

1 L 16 s (parquet)

Third Loge Seats

2 L 8 s

2 L

Paradise

1 L 10 s

1 L 10 s

NB : The base units of the monetary system were the livre, the sol (sous) and the denier, the last two being subdivisions of the livre: 20 sols are equivalent to a livre, 12 deniers make a sol (or sous) (so 1 livre = 20 sols = 240 deniers).

Agathe Sanjuan

(Trans. Marie de Azevedo)

Next: Overview of the Daily Registers – Some Considerations on Measuring Rates of Attendance in the Playhouse