Staples Center ended 2011 as the No. 1 North American concert venue in terms of the number of tickets sold, according to Pollstar, a trade publication that tracks the live event business.
Staples Center, owned by Los Angeles-based AEG, sold 633,374 tickets last year, knocking out perennial winner Madison Square Garden, Pollstar publisher Gary Bongiovanni said. Staples Center did that, in part, thanks to the NBA lockout last fall: The downtown Los Angeles venue hustled a few concert dates to fill seats while the basketball players were on hiatus.
This year the 20,000-seat arena expects to make up for most of the events it lost in the fall when contract disputes between the National Basketball Assn. and its players left it and other venues in limbo.
Now that the NBA is back in full swing, Staples Center is booked nearly to capacity with games and concerts through April 26, the end of the NBA’s season, said Lee Zeidman, general manager of Staples Cenetr, the Nokia Theatre and the adjacent L.A. Live complex.
In the 124 days of the shortened NBA season –- which began Christmas Day -- Staples Center is scheduled to host 127 events.
“From a financial standpoint, the arena has a good chance of hitting its original budget” set before the lockout, Zeidman said Thursday. “The restaurants at L.A. Live also will get close to hitting their original projections.”
Because some days contain more than one event, the arena still has nine empty days, but many of them are likely to be filled as the Los Angeles company continues to reach out to concert promoters and event managers, Zeidman said.
It wasn’t easy to endure the uncertainty of the lockout, he said, with the NBA canceling only two weeks of games at a time as it negotiated with players. Staples Center, which is home to both the Lakers and the Clippers, had little time to book events to replace the missing games.
“You just can't pick up the phone and call Lady Gaga and say, ‘Hey, you want to play here?’ It doesn't work that way. Tours are booked months in advance,” Zeidman said. “We looked at everything from roller derby to action sports to tribute concerts.”
In the fall, AEG managed to fill four of the empty dates with a boxing match in October, an additional concert from Katy Perry in November and two additional performances from Jay-Z's and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne tour in December.
The Perry concert sold 17,000 tickets, Pollstar said -- more than enough for Staples Center to edge out Madison Square Garden, which it beat by a mere 16,500 tickets last year, Bongiovanni said.
The arena also came out on top in terms of concert ticket revenue, according to a Billboard survey. Staples Center in 2011 grossed $60.9 million in concert ticket sales, the highest amount of all venues. That bested Madison Square Gardens, which took in $58.3 million in box office sales, according to Billboard.
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-- Alex Pham
Photo: Katy Perry, whose extra sold-out concert last year at Staples helped the arena edge out Madison Square Garden as the top concert venue in North America. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times