As regards the Ole Seagull’s column on Sunday, we are very grateful to receive the corrected viewpoint of Jerry Henry. We hold him and his work in high regard. The problem that we see is that Jerry is a statistician who does a fantastic job of analyzing correlations, but correlations do not indicate causation. Other forces can be at play at the same time.
We believe that the natural recovery that was taking place in the local and national economy at the time period cited accounts for the observed increases. Jerry Henry’s conclusions sound good to the CVB and the City, but we do not believe that they can be attributed primarily to the marketing efforts of the CVB or any other group effort. It is like a President of the United States taking sole credit or blame for the direction of the national economy. We believe that as the economy recovered, the local show market was still in decline from the adjustments to the overbuilding of Branson theaters and the resulting increase of shows during the boom.
This would have happened to any sector of business in our area that was over built and under protected. In the housing and construction collapse of 2008 cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix did not extrapolate that no one wanted to build houses again or no one liked houses or no one wanted to move to their communities. Instead they saw the problem for what it was and helped the housing market recover. Comments I have heard made by some members of our community and by some people I have sat by on airplanes that suggest seniors are not interested in Branson anymore, that the Branson shows are dying, that no one likes shows are as ridiculous, as if there had been a similar response to the housing decline.
During the economic upheaval no steps were taken by the collective group of theaters and shows, by the city government, or by the CVB to protect the strong show market. There was no moratorium on building more theaters. There was no logical plan by those in power to prevent market forces from devaluing the price of tickets. Desperate shows bowed to forces resulting in an ever smaller percentage of the total ticket price. As intermediary businesses received a greater and greater percentage of the ticket price, they put great marketing effort into promoting those shows that would give them the biggest spread. Quite naturally, these shows were often the less established and lower budget shows. No one in power saw the dangers of not protecting the quality of the show market. And in my humble opinion, I do not believe that the shows have collectively ever been marketed in the most successful ways.
The question is, are there those in power in this city who are grateful for the decades of growth which the shows have provided this community and who want to help the shows recover in a protected and logical way, preserving that special and important element that has made Branson unique. This is the right thing, and to us the most reasonable thing, to do. If this is done according to sound economic principles, the show market will recover and flourish, once again creating a greater percentage of revenue for the city. But instead, if the shows are thrown under the bus, in an effort to falsely congratulate and support the growth of other sectors, sectors which are common to most other locations in the country, we stand in danger of unwisely depreciating this unique element. This does not mean that we should ignore the other attractive aspects of Branson that have flourished over this growth period.
If desired, we can help the City and the CVB to obtain the services and analysis of some of the best economists in the country to obtain a much more balanced insight to all of the economic forces in play, which have caused the observed results. This, coupled with Jerry Henry’s work, would give us a much more accurate picture. (Or they could save money, and seek the advice of someone, who just happens to be a theater owner, who has a lot of insight and experience with what has transpired in the Branson show market during this period, who has a PhD in economics, and who has a lifetime of professional association with acclaimed economists like Milton Friedman, Karl Bruner, Tom Saving, and others. I speak affectionately of my husband.)
I am optimistic about 2017. Indicators lead me to believe that we will have our best year ever.
Sheila Dutton, CEO and owner of the Dutton Family Theater Complex