Talk to any General Manager in town and they’ll tell you that the busiest week on Broadway is from 12/26 – 1/1. That’s the one seven day period shows look forward to all year. In fact, have you ever wondered why some Broadway shows who appear to be on the brink of closing, limp along until the first of the year before shutting their doors?
It’s all for the holiday week.
With the flood of tourists that come into town, just about every show from Broadway to Off Broadway to Comedy Clubs to Street Buskers, sees a surge in sales unlike any other time during the year.
Kind of makes you want to jump on the lobby for that Christmas in July thing, doesn’t it.
I spent a lot of time in Times Square last week, talking to people from all over (and I mean all over – from Iowa to the Philippines, from South Africa to 57th and 6th), to try and pick up some information that I could use in guiding my decision making process, and to of course share with you.
Here are three things I learned during these mucho importante seven days:
1. The TKTS Booth should be renamed The Theater Information Booth
Part of this is because of its location, part of it is because of it is “outside”, and part of it is because it’s . . . red . . . but theatergoers, especially the ones from outside the country, are drawn to the booth like it’s some mystical oracle that knows all the secrets of Broadway. It’s good news, of course, because if you’re walking through Times Square, it’s hard to miss it (and most tourists walk through Times Square). It’s bad news, of course, because the tickets that are offered are at a discount. Shows can now offer varying percentages off (40%, 30% . . . and even 20%), which helps, but since so many people I talked to flock there just to find out what’s playing, I wondered if there was a way to get this info to them before they see those red steps to help shows maximize their income.
2. A 7 PM curtain time shortens their day.
We all know that many shows have moved a curtain time or two to earlier in the eve (7 PMs, usually) to appeal to the local crowd that might want to get home before the 11 PM news. But, for a tourist, an earlier curtain time just reduces the amount of time they have to . . . do stuff. Think about it . . . you’re in Paris or London or Vegas, or wherever. You create an itinerary in the morning of things you want to see . . . museums, monuments, or the dancing Elvis show. You try to pack it all in to a short period of time to make the most of your vacation. And, well, if your last “event” of the day is earlier . . . you get the picture. Earlier curtain times might be great for locals, but it might not help the tourist trade.
3. Fear is a Factor.
NYC is scary. It’s not as scary as it was twenty years ago, when parts of Times Square were like an minimum security prison, but for the tourist, who has found himself right in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world, it’s a frightening place. Being anywhere that isn’t home is always a little scary, but when that anywhere is NYC, well, the fear can cause . . . consumer paralysis. Consumer paralysis is what I call that moment where a potential buyer feels so far out of their element, that they would rather not ask a question, not look for an option . . . and therefore not make a purchase . . . because they are so far out of their comfort zone. They’d just rather go back to their hotel room or worse . . . go to The Olive Garden (because they have one in their home town). I talked to so many people last week that just wanted someone to talk to. A billboard wasn’t enough for them. They wanted needed someone to interact with if they were going to purchase a ticket to a Broadway show. Expensive, impossible to get, etc. were just a few things I heard from folks who were too naive about buying tickets to do so on their own. And let me tell you, as I’ve written about before in this blog (which I recommend you read and try and do something about), the bullet proof glass in our box offices is not helping. It’s actually doing the opposite and pushing people away. We’ve got to find ways to reduce the fear factor. And it’s not going to be as easy as eating a few bugs.
The holiday week is a lucrative time . . . not only in terms of bucks, but also in terms of information. Stew on the above, and see what ideas you can come up with to make it an even better experience for the hundreds of thousands of tourists that come in every year.
Because if this is our busiest week of the year, then guess what week provides the most word of mouth?
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