The Playgoer: Tweeting for Tickets

Custom Search

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tweeting for Tickets

By Suzy Evans

If you’re not a student, an industry member, a senior citizen or a child, finding cheap theater tickets can be tough. And with the economy perpetually whacking box offices everywhere, audiences need deals, as fellow guest blogger Abigail Katz pointed out. Some theaters have offered cheaper tickets for the recession weary, but new creative marketing strategies are popping up to attract audiences both during and beyond the economic downturn.

For their recent production of Migdalia Cruz’s El Grito Del Bronx at the Goodman, Chicago theater companies Collaboraction and Teatro Vista offered a money back guarantee on tickets. Audience members could receive complete cash refund after the show if they asked. The Richard H. Dreihaus Foundation, a Chicago-based granting organization, provided the funding to cover these refunds, but only about nine people asked for their money back. The concept was supposed to get more people to take risks on a show, without the financial burden.

The Steppenwolf tweeted a $10 ticket offer for its production of Up. The play was well-acted and meticulously directed, but the overall idea was a little bland. (Read my review here.) However, I’m guessing 10 dollar tickets would get more people to the theater; it’s definitely worth 10 dollars. Next to Normal on Broadway also used twitter to indirectly boost ticket sales. I’m not a huge fan of the show’s twitter feed (@N2Nbroadway), but according to The New York Times, its twitter tactic scored at the box office. Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey are even writing a new song for the show based on the twitter performance, which will not appear in the production but a public performance and digital download of it is planned. This show’s definitely worth the big bucks so if they can get people to the show, why not?

In the 1990’s, Rent pioneered the Broadway lottery concept, which is still thriving. However, entering your name in a ticket lottery does not guarantee that you’ll receive a cheap seat to that show. Student and general rush, which are becoming increasingly popular, are not sure bets either. And while Chicago theaters haven’t reached the epic prices of some New York shows, everyone is still looking for a deal.

Katz challenged theater artists to “blow it up” and make the art worth the money; however if you go to the theater and hate it, would you ask for your money back? Or would we be more likely to take risks and see new shows if tickets were cheaper? How cheap?

I think theaters throughout Chicago should band together and capitalize on Martha Lavey’s idea of picking your own subscription series. If theatergoers could create a subscription series of shows at different theaters, it would help multiple companies instead of just the one with the “best” show.

Are there any other ways that you’ve seen companies creatively market themselves? What about different ways to offer deals on tickets?


Nick Keenan said...

Actually, Suzy, Martha Lavey is just jumping on the bandwagon with the idea of multiple-theater and curated subscriptions in Chicago. It's a good idea, and I'm thankful she's championing it.

For over a year now the neighborhood of Rogers Park has been a mini-hub of great storefront theater with the award-winning Lifeline, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble, Raven, and the Side Project Theatres. It's a small neighborhood that's set off from the downtown area (actually the old home of Wisdom Bridge as well), so there's a built-in audience segment of folks who love to stay in the hood and see a (dependably good) show right in the neighborhood.

So it was a no brainer that the theaters in the neighborhood teamed up, got some restaurants on boad and offered the Rogers Park Flex Pass (you can read about how the deal was structured via the link).

And there's been other deals in the works for some time. Since storefront and independent theatre is becoming such a financial and cultural force again, it makes sense to allow patrons to pick their own grab bag of shows from a wider selection. Ultimately, it's about bringing more selection choice in entertainment to theater, and making it easy and low-risk to see an experimental and high-risk play.

Suzy Evans said...

Thanks so much for the information, Nick! I know of a few theaters throughout Chicago that offer a Flex Pass within their own seasons, but it's great to know that some theaters are already banding together for subscription passes.

There is so much great theater in Chicago, as you certainly know, that I feel something like this could work on a larger level. I love Rogers Park and storefront theater, but imagine if theatergoers could save money on bigger budget shows at the Goodman and Chicago Shakes as well? It's so hard to commit to an entire season when there are so many to choose from that an offer of a Flex Pass for shows across the board could be a very profitable venture.

Hopefully, Martha Lavey can make it happen. Maybe her new role at TCG will help put some ideas into action across the country. Wouldn't that be great?