(All photos by HuthPhoto)
In the ten years since it first opened its doors, DPAC, the Durham Performing Arts Center, has established itself as a nationally known venue, bringing more than 500,000 guests to the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina on an annual basis. With 130 sellouts this year, DPAC has successfully earned its place among the top theaters in America.
In October, the 2,700-seat, $48 million venue received its second nomination – and first win – for the Theater of the Year Award at the International Entertainment Buyers Association in Nashville. The theater is annually cited in trade publications as being one of the top grossing venues in the country, hosting 2,000 shows in its first decade of business with 1,000 sellouts including concerts by Neil Young, Diana Ross, Leon Bridges, Jason Isbell and Bob Dylan, in addition to comedy heavy hitters such as Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Dave Chappelle and Trevor Noah.
“It’s pretty unexpected and it’s something that the whole team at DPAC really took a lot of pride in, especially on our 10th anniversary,” says GM Bob Klaus on winning top honors. Klaus was the first employee hired at DPAC and tells Amplify “I started about a year before the building opened, while it was still under construction. We had no offices and so my office was at a nearby Starbucks because of the Wifi connection,” he jokes.
Ten years later, DPAC is the biggest theater in the Carolinas and is owned by the city of Durham, who broke ground on the venue in December 2006 and opened its doors on November 30, 2008. Managed by Nederlander and Professional Facilities Management, the theater is showing no sign of slowing down in 2018 with the biggest booking being the Broadway smash hit Hamilton, which drew nearly 85,000 people over four weeks and is on track to be one of the highest grossing Broadway runs ever at DPAC.
The building has hosted everything from Broadway to concerts and comedians to special events and is known for having “something for everyone.” Just this past season, they hosted a variety of artists including Jill Scott, Joan Baez, Anita Baker, and David Byrne.
“We’re lucky that we have such a diverse marketplace and the community has been very supportive of us,” says programming director Brad Saks, who joined DPAC in May after time at AEG Live and Knitting Factory Presents, as well as WME, Monterey Peninsula Artists and Metropolitan in New York. “Agents know that we sell tickets. We’re one of the only theaters in the region with a dedicated full-time marketing team.”
“We work with many wonderful promoters including Live Nation, AEG, NS2, AC Entertainment, Outback Concerts, The Dome Group, and Cat’s Cradle. Working with these promoters helps bring the biggest and best shows to the area.” adds Saks.
When plans to build a performing arts venue in Durham were announced there was plenty of skeptics who didn’t think the city could support a full-service performing arts venue.
“Until we opened ten years ago, most of the shows were skipping the market,” said Klaus who said the city’s minor league baseball stadium was the only draw bringing people downtown.
“People looked at the building with a raised eyebrow because we had pretty big expectations,” he said. “And now 10 years later, we’ve become the hub for the region with three out of our four guests coming from outside of Durham, which has had a tremendous economic impact.”
The success of DPAC’s first decade is set to continue in 2019 with a talented line up of artists, including Mandolin Orange, Chicago, Gary Clark Jr, and Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Farewell Play Tour.
“People all the time ask how a 2,700-seat theater in Durham, North Carolina, can rank up there with the Fox Theater, The Beacon or other big theaters in LA and Vegas,” Klaus says. “From the very start we wanted to be number one and provide the most friendly, most guest-focused experience in the region, and that’s really become our secret weapon. We can certainly sell every ticket for a big show like Bob Dylan, Jerry Seinfeld or Hamilton, but I think the thing that has people coming back so often and so frequently is the guest service team at our facility. It’s something that we’re complimented on over and over and over again.”
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