YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

When `Mummies' go, prices drop

The Bowers Museum will cut its general admission fee next April, when the exhibit returns to London.

June 08, 2007|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

Tagged as having some of the nation's highest ticket prices, the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Orange County will relinquish the crown next April by introducing a $12 general admission fee, down from the $17 weekday and $19 weekend tariffs that have applied since it opened a new wing Feb. 18.

As the Santa Ana museum ushered in the $14.6-million doubling of its exhibition space four months ago, it dropped its bargain rate of $5 for visitors who just wanted to see the permanent galleries and forgo the ones housing special exhibitions.

But the public hasn't cried out for a price break, museum President Peter C. Keller said Wednesday. The museum had reasoned that visitors wouldn't miss cheap access to the permanent collection given the option of seeing multiple special exhibitions for a higher price, and that's been largely confirmed by surveys and sustained good attendance, he said.

Most of the Bowers' 130,000 or so paid visitors annually have been shelling out for $17 to $19 tickets since April 2005. That's when "Mummies: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt" arrived from the British Museum.

With the expansion, visitors got two additional shows for a full-price ticket -- "Treasures From Shanghai: 5000 Years of Chinese Art and Culture," from the Shanghai Museum, and the photography display "Ansel Adams: Classic Images."

When the mummies go back to London next April, however, the museum will be down to a single special exhibition, "Colors of Light and Stone," a showcase of a 300-piece gem collection previously seen at the Bowers in 2002. At that point, museum leaders decided, a $17-$19 prix fixe would be too pricey.

When the next big attraction, "Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China's First Emperor," opens a 17-month run in May 2008, visitors will be given the option of paying a regular or a special price -- $12 ($9 for seniors and students) for those not interested in seeing the warrior figures, or $20 to $22 ($14 to $16 for seniors and students).

Keller said extensive surveys since the Bowers' new wing opened have shown that 74% of visitors agreed or strongly agreed with the pricing.

As for the museum's being branded for its costly admission, Keller said the attention only helped it.

"Every time an article came out, our attendance soared," he said. "I was joking I'd rather be the third most expensive than the third cheapest. There's a perceived value" in higher pricing, and "taking the general admission down to $5 would say we didn't think very much of ourselves."

Los Angeles Times Articles