Greek Perfects Capacity

The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles is doing a disappearing act.

No, it’s not going away. But thanks to an innovative system of camouflage netting, the Nederlander Concerts-operated amphitheatre is making entire blocks of seats virtually invisible in order to offer cut-down configurations, opening the venue up to artists that might otherwise think it is too big to play.

Nederlander COO Alex Hodges thought about how to make the Greek more attractive to artists who want to play the historic venue but are concerned about filling the bowl’s nearly 6,000 seats. He came up with the idea to create multiple configurations that give the appearance of a sold-out show for even a draw of half its usual capacity.

“It addresses the issue of artists thinking, ‘the Greek is almost 6,000 seats and I don’t know if I can do more than 3,000 or 4,000.’” Hodges told Pollstar. “Nobody wants to look out and see blocks of half-empty seats. So if the glass is either half full or half empty, lets make it full and make those empty seats disappear.”

Hodges said Nederlander invested some money to buy military surplus netting last year and experimented with it for two shows in November to excellent reviews. During the Greek’s off-season, Nederlander developed a system of netting and landscaping to be able to offer several cut-down configurations for the upcoming summer season.

Nederlander’s staff put together a booklet with detailed seating maps and breakdowns for eight separate Greek-themed configurations, from the “Zeus” setup at 5,900 seats down to the “Delos” at 2,907 capacity.

“We put together the book and, to a person, agents have said this is great,” Hodges said. “The Greek has a certain cachet. We consider it the best venue in Los Angeles. It’s only a half-year venue, but I have dark days and there are bands that should be playing it if we can make it look right. We invested and experimented, and we’re ready to go for 2009.”

The green foliage of the Greek’s Griffith Park setting and the camouflage netting blend together, enhanced with potted trees and other plants inside the venue, to create the appearance of a natural setting in the seated terraces rather than “holes” that typical black coverings would produce.

Production staff is able to install the netting system up to day-of-show, and though there is some added labor cost in doing so, Hodges believes the extra effort and cost of materials will pay for itself in additional bookings in less than two to three years.

Hodges acknowledges that even though the netting creates more flexibility with capacities, the number of tickets put on sale has to realistically reflect what research and history show an artist can be reasonably expected to move before opening up additional sections and relocating patrons.

We’ll take a show, section by section, and see which of those we will hold off sale, like the terraces,” Hodges explained. “When sales warrant expanding into some of those sections, we can keep opening them up to sell more.

“The venue is tailored to the specific show. We’re tailor-making the venue to the ability of the band to draw, and they don’t have to look out at empty seats or feel they can’t play the Greek. And I sympathize with that, especially in an important career, media and entertainment market like Los Angeles.”

So instead of a “disappearing act,” the Greek Theatre is actually remaking itself into at least eight different venues. And to look around, hardly anyone will be able to “see” the difference.