Bloggin’ From Britain (with a stop in Belgium)

I’ve been on a whirlwind of a trip for the last 2.5 days.  But I got to see 3 show including Billy Elliot, Brief Encounter, and a Belgian dance piece starring an 80s pop star who played the electric violin.

While trying to fall asleep in my twin bed in my hotel room the size of a refrigerator magnet, I thought about some of the differences between theater on the West End and theater on Broadway.

Here are my top three:

1.  HALF-PRICE TKTS BOOTHS ARE EVERYWHERE

In London, you can get half-price tickets to shows at a ton of small shops.  There is no exclusive arrangement on who offers these tickets.  There are countless brokers who have access to discounted tickets, which decrease the lines and probably moves more tickets.

There IS an “official” TKTS booth, just like ours (see bottom picture).  However, when I walked by, it was closed . . . at 7 PM.

What if there were half-price ticket shops on every block here?  Could the monopoly of the TKTS booth be broken if a scalperPhoto1 opened up a shop in Times Square and sold half-price tickets instead of premium tickets?

It could easily be done, especially with the recent change in the scalping laws.  In fact, if you’ve visited the corner of 46th and Broadway recently, you’ve probably seen it happen already.  At the right time of night you can catch scalpers selling half-price tickets to everything.  They just don’t have an office . . . yet.

Let’s hope it doesn’t happen here. The 50% ticket still feels a bit special to the consumer, and I think it’s important for them to work for it a bit by standing in line (or searching ONline).  Put half-price tickets everywhere, and the full price ticket’s value decreases even more.

2.  THERE’S NO PLAYBILLPhoto

Instead of a playbill, every show has a “souvenir programme” . . . that costs money.  Over $10, in fact.  And if you don’t buy it, you don’t get a cast list, or song list, etc.

Can you imagine that meeting . . . “How can we increase the souvenir programme sales.  I’ve got it!  Take away the free one!”

Would you take your Playbill away if you could?  Not me.  To me, it’s one of the stickiest form of advertising there is.  People collect these things.  They leave them on their dining room tables.  Some obsessive kids cut out the pictures, and make collages with their covers and then frame them (uhhhh . . . TMI?)

Playbill and programs are the best kind of advertising there is . . . because they don’t look like advertising.  They provide information.  If you could only get people to read your ads for as long as they read their playbills.

3.  JUKEBOX MUSICALS ARE KING

Mamma Mia began here.  We Will Rock You still rocks there, and will never even try to make it on Broadway.  Musicals featuring the music of Take That, Madness, Blondie, and so on and so on.  Why do they do well here, despite getting lambasted by the critics?

Here’s my theory . . .

You know what’s close to England?  France.  Spain.  Germany.  The Netherlands.

You know what’s close to Broadway?  Canada.

The West End Theater has to appeal to many more non-English speakers than we do.  The West End is a train ride away from the rest of Europe.  And the West End, like Broadway, is very much dependent upon the tourist.  We have to cater to the weekend travelers from Ohio.  And they have to cater to the weekend travelers from Frankfurt.

And we all know that the international language is sweet pop music.

Anyone else have any favorite reasons why we’re different?  Besides the fact that our currency has the value of a piece of pocket lint compared to theirs?

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Comments
  • English theatre patron says:

    Unfortunately, theatre owners have more clout that they do on Broadway, so not only do producers have little say with respect to what goes into the programme, they see absolutely no income on it whatsoever.
    (To promote the show and earn some money, most now have a souvenir brochure as you would see on Broadway as well).

  • Mark says:

    I wish they would sell those little ice creams in Broadway theatres. I always miss those whenever I come home from London.

  • Tom Atkins says:

    I’m not sure that’s true English theatre patron. The programmes are still the producer’s merchandise sold on a commission basis with the theatre. I believe it’s usually about 15% to the theatre but can differ depending on the deal.

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