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    Mayor’s holiday arts initiative draws record number

    Ksusha Melyukhina and Russell Ferguson in Anthony Williams’s “Urban Nutcracker,” one of the shows included in the Mayor’s Holiday Spectacular.
    Raven Wolfe photography
    Ksusha Melyukhina and Russell Ferguson in Anthony Williams’s “Urban Nutcracker,” one of the shows included in the Mayor’s Holiday Spectacular.

    Half-price tickets to a total of 135 productions in the Greater Boston area will be available through the end of the year under a holiday arts initiative aimed at luring — and keeping — new audiences.

    A record 76 arts organizations are taking part in the initiative, newly renamed the Mayor’s Holiday Spectacular. They range from such heavy-hitters as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Ballet, and Broadway in Boston to smaller companies like Whistler in the Dark Theatre, Zeitgeist Stage Company, and Actors’ Shakespeare Project.

    “It’s a promotion that makes it easy for people to come in and enjoy all that Boston has to offer during this beautiful holiday season, with a focus on the arts and entertainment performances that our city manages to offer up in great abundance and quality,’’ said Catherine Peterson, executive director of ArtsBoston, a marketing and audience development arts service organization.


    The initiative represents a collaboration among ArtsBoston, the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism, & Special Events. (The Globe is a media partner.) Information on the productions and the performances for which half-price tickets are available is at, grouped under such categories as “Romantic Night Out,’’ “Festivities,” and “Kids & Families,’’ along with listings of theater, comedy, music, and dance performances. (Day-of-show half-price tickets will also be available at the BosTix booths at Copley Square and Faneuil Hall Marketplace.) The website also offers $10 off restaurant coupons and $10 First Night buttons, and lists free holiday events, such as tree-lightings.

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    The decade-old initiative was formerly known as the Mayor’s Holiday Special. “In recognition of the 10-year anniversary and the fact that it is Mayor [Thomas M.] Menino’s curtain bow as our partner, we decided it was absolutely time to rev it up to ‘spectacular,’ ’’ Peterson said. This year’s initiative is dedicated to Menino and his wife, Angela.

    For perennially audience-hungry arts organizations, the initiative could potentially serve as a way to fill the seats and keep them filled. ArtsBoston will be tracking sales as part of an audience-retention effort designed to encourage first-time ticket-buyers to remain in what Peterson calls “the entertainment-cultural ecosystem.’’ The 76 organizations involved in the Mayor’s Holiday Spectacular will have access to ArtsBoston’s database of audience information, listing the names and contact information of those who took advantage of the discounted holiday shows.

    “They can then extend an invitation to come back to their organization and sample another performance,’’ said Peterson. “It’s a great way to get new audience members.’’

    She added: “We know if we can get that first-time buyer to come back to another performance within 12 months, they are far more likely to become regular arts-goers.’’


    Whether that part of the initiative succeeds, the effort underscores the financial importance of the holiday season to arts groups. “For many arts organizations, their holiday shows or concerts are both a way to highlight their company to people who may not go to the arts on a regular basis, and it’s a big revenue driver,’’ noted Peterson. “ ‘Messiahs,’ ‘Nutcrackers,’ ‘Christmas Carols’: All have been offerings that organizations can book multiple performances of, to full houses. Which means full coffers.’’

    Don Aucoin can be reached at