- Associated Press - Monday, May 15, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) - The financially troubled Metropolitan Opera says it projects to break even for the 2016-17 season.

Met general manager Peter Gelb said Monday the company’s attendance was up 3 percent this year overall and 1 percent in potential box office realized.

There were 80,000 new ticket buyers, the most since the company started tracking figures, up from 74,000 in the previous season. That made up for a continued decline in subscription tickets, a slide that is impacting virtually all music organizations as people wait until closer to performances to purchase.

“The good news is that we have more new ticket buyers. The difficult news is that the subscription base continues to erode mostly due to age - the aging out of our audience,” Gelb said.

The Met moved to Lincoln Center in 1966 and operates in a 4,000-capacity house that averaged 90 percent attendance for much of the company’s first three decades there. Attendance slumped over the past decade and box office realized hit a record-low of 66 percent in 2015-16, when attendance was 72 percent.

After deficits of $2.8 million in 2012-13 and $21.9 million in 2013-14, the Met achieved cost savings in difficult labor negotiations that nearly interrupted rehearsals and had a $1.1 million surplus in 2014-15 and a $177,000 deficit in 2015-16.

Next season is the last for many of the Met’s union contracts, and Gelb hopes new deals allow the company to present regular staged Sunday performances for the first time.

“Everyone is aware that Sundays are an important part of the Met’s future,” he said. “It could certainly happen for the ‘19-20 season.”

Gelb is continuing to search for a lead donor for the project to expand the Met’s cramped lobby.

“We don’t want to go forward with that project until we know it’s fully funded and without cannibalizing any donations that go to the Met for our regular operating purposes,’” he said.

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