Why shopping online for theater is different than shopping online for other entertainment.

iTunes revolutionized how music is consumed by satisfying our culture’s increasing demand for instant gratification.  Want a song?  Click.  Bam.  Boom.  It’s on your iPod and you’re rocking out to your favorite Carpenters tune in no time.

Netflix is now pushing their instant viewing option as a way to satisfy the capricious mind of today’s audience that doesn’t want to plan ahead.  I want to see Goonies.  Now.  Now.  Now!  And all from the comfort of one’s own couch.
And the latest is from Amazon.com, the company that re-energized how we bought books.  Now, with The Kindle, you can have the latest Jackie Collins e-delivered to you in seconds, wherever you are.
So what do all of these trends have in common?
They don’t require the buyer to get off his butt.
The fundamental difference between purchasing theater tickets online and purchasing most any other product online, is that the purchase of a theater ticket is a commitment on behalf of the buyer to make a physical effort in order to have the experience at a future date or time.
In addition to all of the examples above, food, clothes, electronics, etc. are all e-shopped items that can be delivered, but buying a theater ticket requires you to get off your couch, determine your method of transportation, block out time to see the show (there ain’t no pause button), and physically get your American Idol watching a$$ down to the theater.
This is one of the greatest challenges that the theater faces in the next decade, as more and more entertainment options become instantly available to us (it’s also important that as we develop our marketing strategies we realize this fundamental difference in our customers’ purchase thought process).
But these challenges are not insurmountable.  As I’ve said before, I believe that as more of these two dimensional forms of entertainment become available to us, the three dimensional form or the “live” entertainment experience becomes that much more rare, and that much more valuable . . . provided the experience is still special.
A lot of people disagree with me.  They say that the internet has changed the face of entertainment and that theater will be dead in 20 years.
My response?
Somehow, the theater has survived the invention of the radio, the movie, and most significantly . . . the television. As long as we tweak our experience to satisfy our new audience’s expectations, we’ll have no problem surviving this.
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Speaking of The Kindle, for those of you who own that little cracker-jack of a device, you can now get my blog e-delivered directly to your Kindle.  Visit the Kindle store and search for Ken Davenport or click here!
If you don’t own one, let me tell you that it’s one of my favorite new toys, thanks to the PDF feature.  It allows me to read more scripts than ever before.
  • Liz says:

    It would be nice if shopping for theatre tickets online wasn’t such an agonizing experience. Trying to track down the pair of seats you want, while Telecharge and Ticketmaster helpfully show you one pair at a time (and Ticketmaster is worse than Telecharge in this regard, at least Telecharge will give you a few choices) is unbelievably frustrating. Show me what’s available, I’ll decide where I want to sit… why is this so hard?
    And don’t even get me started on the “convenience” fees.

  • DJF747 says:

    I wonder if it’s really a problem that you have to physically go to the theatre after buying a ticket? It’s the same for baseball games, rock concerts, restaurants and that trip to Aruba.
    Don’t communal activities become more attractive in an (alienating) digital world? Houses have had kitchens for a while now, and restaurants are still quite popular.

  • NW says:

    Tickets: I really like ticketing operations that allow users to select seats from a seating chart (e.g., Roundabout).
    PDF: “If you don’t own one, let me tell you that it’s one of my favorite new toys, thanks to the PDF feature.” How well are pdfs supported? Are there any formatting problems? I was under the impression that at least some pdf files were problematic.

  • Some PDFs are perfect, some lose some formatting, but it’s definitely legible. I hear the new larger Kindle has even better PDF features.

  • Richard says:

    One of these days I’m not going to have an opinion on something, but today is not that day.
    There are two theatrical experiences in New York theater. And that’s what theatrical producers would be smart to understand. The vast majority of shows that end up running long manage to gain currency beyond the theater-going crowd. An extreme example would be what “The Producers” achieved. It was a status symbol just to have been able to procure top-notch tickets to the first year’s run…at least it was in the eyes of people who normally watch reality TV shows.
    And then there’s real theater, the stuff like “Pillowman,” for example.
    I have not seen “Phantom,” and I have no desire to do so, and the comments I get from people who know that I supposedly have an interest in theater are funny. It’s not: “Really?” Or “Why not?” It’s almost like “How could you not? It’s iconic.”
    Making your show successful is not about engendering interest in theater and making it easier for people to get there. It’s about making them WANT/NEED to go.
    That’s what marketers of consumer packaged goods know. You create the need and then you fill it.
    Oh, and by the way, I’m too old-fashioned for the Broadway version of “Phantom.” “Phantom,” for me, will always be a horror story on the order of the silent movie with Lon Chaney. Even the Claude Rains version bores me.

  • Michael says:

    Theatre consumption:
    This is a far out idea but I know that I want my work both onstage and offstage to be seen by as many people as possible. It is a truth that people want convenience, but I dont think that has changed much for a few decades. But what CAN change is accessibility to theatre, particularly Broadway theatre ON Broadway.
    I havent thought this through but it was a gut response: How about televising ALL theatre LIVE, somehow making it viewable ONLY ONCE to the person who purchases it, for a fee that is affordable? Or, with most people having access to computers, having it accessible on the computer? Producers can choose in which areas of the country their show can be seen on TV? (e.g. not where a tour might be going).
    Sure, Mary might invite over a few friends (or a few hundred), but Mary lives in some rural area of the country, can’t afford to get out (or might be quadriplegic)and will NEVER come to Broadway. But she reads and watches everything about Broadway and might purchase every single show on Broadway to view from her living room.
    This can NEVER replace a LIVE experience, but is it possible this method can boost sales at all, make it accessible to all, and actually entice people to come see it who can afford it?
    Or the other option, as MTV did with Legally Blonde, is to tape every Broadway show, put it on TV and see what happens? Did that boost sales or not? I didnt follow the story.
    Yes, there are regulations and rules but these can be amended. And we need to appeal to and GET to those other folks who will never get here and so desperately want to. Or make it accessible to people who DO come here, maybe once in their lifetimes, and want to see 20 shows and can only see 2. Can it be a worthwhile experiment for a year?
    Just a thought.
    Signed, Michael who, in all of his ignorance, isnt sure of all the rules yet and is just brainstorming

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