Hotellings Model at Adelaide Fringe’s Garden of Unearthly Delights

I’m at the Garden of Unearthly Delights at Adelaide Fringe, a quixotic and carnivalesque pleasure garden filled with comedy, performance and theatre. In 2008 the Garden hosted more than 900 ticketed performances by 102 performance groups; attendance was estimated at over 600,000. This year it is even bigger. 

The Garden is an interesting case study in the economic advantages of concentration. As business and economics students learn in early classes, its always best to put your ice-cream stand next to the others on a beach. Called Hotellings’ model, this tendency of competing businesses to cluster together is also, I suspect, one of the driving factors behind the success of the Garden, which seems to be rapidly taking over other aspects of the Adelaide Fringe and justifying its publicists’ claim that “for many, The Garden of Unearthly Delights IS the Adelaide Fringe.”

Other factors are at play. The management and production team of Buxton Walker and Strut and Fret combines marketing nous with curatorial flair to create a bundled entertainment juggernaut that single shows at other Fringe-produced venues find difficult to compete with. It’s not just the aggregation of shows in one place: the piggy-backed publicity, energy and word-of-mouth generated by the growth of the Garden appear to be producing positive feedback loops that are drawing in other aspects of the Fringe, even at the risk of dominating the Fringe program.

And as for my show? It’s called The Colors Interactive Comeback Show and it opens tonight. I’m helping to produce  and tech it, and I’ll let you know how it’s going this week.


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