In an unstable year for touring, an unlikely contender has risen to become the highest-grossing and most-attended venue of the year.
According to data provided to Billboard Boxscore, Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado is not only the biggest moneymaking venue with a capacity between 5,001-10,000 of 2021 but the top-grossing venue of any size, in the world, for the year. With 134 shows reported to Boxscore, the beloved, 9,500-seat outdoor venue brought in more than $61.6 million.
To further contextualize Red Rocks’ extraordinary performance, the amphitheater out-earned the next highest-grossing venue overall — Las Vegas’ 20,000-capacity T-Mobile Arena, which took in $37.2 million last year according to Billboard Boxscore — by more than $24 million. The next highest-reported venue in the 5,001-10,000 category was the Park Theater in Las Vegas, which took in $35.7 million in 2021.
On the attendance metric, Red Rocks’ dominance is even more striking. Starting with a four-night run by Lotus at the end of April up until Nov. 19, when Playboi Carti closed out the season, Red Rocks sold 996,000 tickets in 2021, according to Billboard Boxscore. The next highest-attended venue, Madison Square Garden, sold 248,575 tickets in 2021 — or nearly 750,000 fewer than the Colorado amphitheater. Not only that, but Red Rocks sold a whopping 225,000 tickets more than it did during its record-setting 2019 season prior to the pandemic.
“The very first night when we opened those doors and people came in literally screaming and high-fiving us and other fans – that chokes you up,” says director of marketing and business development for Denver Arts & Venues/Red Rocks Amphitheatre Brian Kitts of returning to live shows after hosting fewer than two dozen in 2020. “We will never again take for granted the ability to get together.”
According to internal figures provided by Kitts, Red Rocks hosted a record number of concerts in 2021: 177 shows for a total of 1.32 million tickets sold. (Billboard Boxscore is based on numbers reported to MRC Data. Not all shows are reported.) This year’s run of shows is a record number for the 80-year-old venue, and all the more impressive given ever-changing COVID-19 safety regulations. The venue operated at 25% capacity from April until May, followed by a two-thirds capacity until the end of June. Since the June 22 Subtronics show, the venue has operated at full capacity.
While selling tickets to larger numbers of people never became an issue, Kitts says the venue did have difficulty ramping up staffing. “It was crushing,” he says. “The industry felt a real pinch when it came to concessionaires, security and guest services staff. That didn’t get easier the entire season.”
As a result, fans were faced with longer lines for food and beverages and encountered slower ingress, though Kitts adds that Red Rocks patrons were “completely understanding.” The inconveniences never seemed to diminish ticket sales, with nearly every concert of the year selling out.
Kitts credits the commitment from artists, promoters, staff and fans for making the year an unlikely success. “It’s a combination of things,” says Kitts. “It’s an iconic venue and it certainly helps that it was outdoors. Then it was the willingness of the fans to get out there and be together again.”