Rentals Galore!

Guest writer:  Brian Walker, Production Manager

Something most people don’t realize is when they come to the ballet, frequently what they see on stage does not belong to Houston Ballet.  It is very rare for a ballet company to own 100% of the ballets that it is performing in any given season. As a result, there is a booming rental business that exists as part of our industry.  In any given season Houston Ballet will rent anywhere from 3 – 7 of the ballets performed.  This season, productions that were or are being rented are Petite Mort, Cinderella, Falling and Five Tangos.  Even The Merry Widow was a rental until we decided to purchase the production from Pacific Northwest Ballet. 

We begin our planning process to secure rentals a year to two years in advance depending on how much we know about our season and whether we feel we will have a problem getting a particular production.  We are one of the few companies that actually plans as far out as we do, which often creates problems for the companies that we are renting from who don’t know their own seasons yet.  It takes quite a bit of planning and follow-up to make sure that we can get the productions with enough time for fittings and alterations.

We have a unique setup with the Australian Ballet in that when we rent a production from them, we keep the show for 18 months.  This allows us to perform the show multiple times.  We have had Madame Butterfly for about a year already and have performed it at the Wortham, on tour this fall, and we will be performing it again on the spring tour to Montreal.  We also have their production Cinderella, which will probably have a similar a life while it is in the United States.  We do this to maximize our costs because in addition to the rental cost, there are significant shipping costs involved in getting and returning the show to Australia.

In addition to renting shows for our own performances, we rent out a lot of our productions to other companies.  Some of the ballets that we currently have on the books for rental are Bruiser, Coppélia, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, Giselle, Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella, Four Last Songs and Cleopatra.  Our production of Dracula will be rented out 5 times over the next 4 seasons.  Houston Ballet has been a major provider of full length ballets, having built quite a few productions throughout the years.  Our rentals generate roughly $100 – $150,000 in income a year depending on the total number of productions that go out on rental.  We spend a lot of time maintaining the productions that are rented so that they can continue to have a life for our own use and for the use of other companies on rentals.

Rentals are a big part of the ballet business, but not something that most people really have any idea about. 



4 thoughts on “Rentals Galore!

  1. Can you describe the process of renting out one of your productions? Does it get “checked out” with video, scores, notation? Is there a person responsible for remounting the work? Are they billed for hourly? Are there standards for who can perform a work? I have more questions…

    Very curious business and I’d like to know more.

  2. When we rent our ballets out we rent the scenery, costumes and props only. That doesn’t include the choreography as that is negotiated with the choreography independently of the design. We do try to send as much information with the production as possible (design info, production photos, inventories, etc.) If someone is mounting our version of a show, they can rent the music parts from us as well, but they are not included as part of the rental agreement itself. A company that wants to rent one of our shows contacts us with the request and if the show is not already booked for our own use, or for another rental, we begin a rental contact sheet. The senior management have final say on whether or not the show can be rented out. We won’t rent our shows to someone that we don’t feel can take the appropriate care of it or have the means to produce it effectively. Our rental agreements do include sending a wardrobe person for fittings as well as a stage hand for the load in to and out of the theater to make sure that our assets are being taken care of appropriately. They are paid on a day rate. We do waive that clause for companies that have done the show before or for a show that is small enough that it doesn’t require assistance.

  3. This was a very interesting post! This is our first year as season ticket holders, and we are enjoying getting to know more about Houston Ballet. I’ve subscribed to this blog and look forward to reading more.

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