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The Royal Ontario Museum

Sarah Dea/Sarah Dea/The Globe and Mail

Faced with research that its admission prices were too high and dissuading visitors, the Royal Ontario Museum has slashed some of its ticket prices by as much as 37 per cent. The changes took effect on Thursday.

Canada's largest cultural institution receives just under half of its funding from government grants, and until now, had some of the highest admission prices in Canada. Janet Carding, ROM director and CEO, said the ROM's own initiatives drove the decision announced on Thursday. The new prices reflect rates that participants in ROM's research said would be more appealing.

"This is our decision," Ms. Carding said in a phone interview on Thursday. "We decided for ourselves as part of our strategic planning that we wanted to do some research, speak to our visitors across the GTA and speak to people who haven't come to visit us for a while. We were looking to see how we could encourage more repeat visitors and encourage more first-time visitors, and what we uncovered in that research is that the price was a barrier to people coming to us."

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The ROM worked with Strategic Counsel, a research company, and Lord Cultural Resources to conduct research through avenues like surveys and focus groups.

Adult admission is now $15. Seniors and students will pay $13.50, a 35 per cent decrease, and child admission is $12, down by 25 per cent. The museum has discontinued its free two-hour period on Wednesday nights.

The ROM received just over $28-million from the Ontario government for 2010-2011. According to Ms. Carding, admissions account for about 17 per cent of the ROM's revenue. The museum recorded 965,000 visitors from April, 2010, to April, 2011. Ms. Carding says the hope is that the new fares will boost attendance.

"At $15, a lot more people said they would visit us at that rate," she said. "We'd normally get around a million a year, and we've planned very conservatively on this, so we need to get a little over a million."

The new prices bring the ROM closer to parity with other major Canadian cultural attractions. The Canadian Museum of Civilization charges $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and $8 for children. At the Vancouver Art Gallery, adults pay $17.50, seniors and students pay $12.50, and admission for children is $6.25.

The Art Gallery of Ontario now has one of the most expensive adult admission rates at $19.50. The student price is lower at $11, but seniors pay $16. Antonietta Mirabelli, deputy director of communications at the AGO, says it's too early to say whether rates will be adjusted in the near future, but that the organization is working on a new plan.

"We're in that process of strategic planning where we are looking at pricing, hours of operation, we're looking at programming decisions and priorities, but we haven't made any decisions just yet," Ms. Mirabelli said. "We're asking similar questions, much so like the ROM has asked that most certainly informed their decision today."

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