Economic downturn hits King Tut

Not even the golden wonders of pharaonic Egypt can lure people out of this winter of economic discontent, as the Dallas Museum of Art is finding out.

They weren’t even looking to make huge money off the traveling exhibit, which has raked in the cash in cities around the US since it opened in Los Angeles 3 years ago. Dallas just wanted to break even, but with an expensive show like this, that means 1 million people have to see the exhibit at full price.

Now that discretionary spending is tight for so many, that number is looking increasingly distant.

The Tut exhibit has drawn more than 270,000 visitors during its first three months, Ms. Pitman said, with 90,000 of those being schoolchildren, who, like other large groups, purchased discounted tickets.

With less than five months to go before the show closes May 17, the DMA would have to draw 730,000 to reach the 1 million mark. That would be an average of 146,000 a month, which exceeds its current average of around 90,000 a month.

Bonnie Pitman, the museum director, and Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, are still optimistic that they’ll reach their goal. The holidays will hopefully bring a spike of visitors.

Any shortfall will hit the museum hard. The terms of the loan are confidential, but Zawi Hawass has been bragging about how much bank the Egyptian government is making from the exhibit.

They get their cut first, you see. Then the promoter. Then the museum, assuming there’s anything left. Egypt is guaranteed at least $6 million from the ticket sale proceeds, after that, they get a percentage of profits.

Up until the financial crisis, these kinds of exhibits were sure to be blockbusters and therefore worth the exhorbitant loan fees. Not so much anymore.

For more about the exhibit and to purchase tickets should you be in the area, see the Dallas Museum of Art site.