What to do with your kids when you go to the theater.

Yesterday we talked about how life’s many obstacles can get in the way of a customer making a purchase.

So today, I thought we’d look at one of those obstacles and try to extract it from their path.

One of the biggest obstacles I hear about, especially from folks in their mid-30s, is also one of life’s greatest blessings (insert sigh here) . . . kids.

Having kids cramps nightly activities for couples . . . and the first one to go, is often the theater.  (I’d bet that this is one of the reasons theatergoing is reserved for the 45+ set)

So, great marketers out there . . . if this is an obstacle, how can we remove it?

Here are a few ideas off the top of my bean:

  • How about emergency notification phone numbers so an usher can get you out of your seat if there is a problem with your toddler?
  • What about partnering with a babysitting service to offer a few hours of time with each pair of full price tickets purchased?
  • Or wait, what about offering actual babysitting services at the theater?!  It’s the Bible-study model, where the kids go off together, while the parents hit the church. The Gershwin Theatre has a huge lobby and a giant rehearsal room upstairs . . . it would be perfect.  And you could teach them all about theater, inspiring them to become audiences of the future!
  • Why leave the kids at home?  Bring ’em . . . for free, or for the cost of a movie ticket.  (Recommend special seating that puts them close to a door in case their kid wants to run . . . or gets a case of the runs.)

Will any of these work?  I don’t know.  You’ve got to try them to find out . . . but they are certainly not going to hurt.  And you just may stumble upon something that prevents your customer from stumbling on the way to purchasing a ticket.

I’m sure all of you can come up with a whole bunch more ideas for this one huge (albeit very cute) obstacle that keeps a lot of folks at home.  Comment below!

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  • I seem to recall suggesting the notion of childcare at some point. I think it would be worthwhile to experiment with at small theatres to begin with. Offer one performance a week with childcare (a matinee might be a good start) — either included in the ticket or a nominal charge. If the response is good, expand it. After all, if its good enough for Ikea, its good enough for the theatre.

  • elan says:

    I took my kids as soon as they were old enough to sit still & enjoy it, it is earlier than most parents think if the show is engaging, once they would sit through a movie without moving I knew the theatre was doable & never had a problem.

  • Amyleigh1982 says:

    I have a strict ‘My toddlers don’t go to the theater’ policy (you’re welcome, America). Basic childcare misses a huge opportunity. Like the Man said, isn’t it better to prepare the next generation of theatre-goers rather than seclude them? Older kids SHOULD be able to go somewhere to learn about theatre and be inspired by it, especially during matinee hours. In a few years, I’d pay for that in addition to my ticket. Because isn’t the goal to one day hear, “Hey, mom, can we get house seats to -BLANK- and bring all our friends?”

  • Playwrights Horizons does this- they recently started working with an arts centric babysitting service to provided child-care for kids in the theatre building, while the play is happening. It’s just for weekend matinees, for now:

  • CP says:

    When I was browsing around the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park website (looking up details for ‘Merrily’), I stumbled upon this:
    “Babysitter Rebate Series
    Parents need flexibility to schedule that all-important night out, so the Babysitter Rebate Series is available for ALL performances! Purchase two Five Show subscriptions to the Marx Theatre, and you are eligible to receive a rebate of up to $100 ($20 per production attended) to help cover your babysitting expenses for your children (12 and under).”

  • Laura says:

    There’s no question that going to the theater becomes more challenging when you have young children. An option to consider is going to see performances that appeal to the whole family, like at The New Victory Theater on 42nd Street. There, parents will find shows that they and their kids enjoy in equal measure, which doesn’t really happen with Broadway or anywhere else.

  • MomsThoughts says:

    Both of my childre LOVE Broadway and we started with the Kids Night on Broadway – we knew the theaters were full of other families and they felt very comfortable. Now we go all the time! I love the idea of on-site babysitting. It wouldn’t cost the theater much to hire a couple young folks to monitor them…love it!

  • Danielle says:

    When I interned at Adirondack Theatre Festival we had one performance for each production with babysitting services on the premises. The kids sat upstairs in the rehearsal studio with education staff and did activities related to the show’s themes while the parents were watching the show. The families who participated were very happy with the evening!

  • Janis says:

    I wrote a play for a theater in Branson, MO to entetain kids too young for the shows while parents went to a matinee. I wrote an inter-active show that included an active time when the kids played, danced and sang along with the performers, a snack time when they ate with the performers and a rest time when the lights were dimmed and everyone pretended to sleep.
    It was all worked into a story about a teddy Bear who falls in love with a real bear living in a forest of animals who sang and danced with the kids.
    The kids were given ID bracelets which matched the parent’s bracelets and parents who did not pick up their children promptly were charged a penalty.
    It was an opportunity for kids to experience theater and parents to not feel guilty for leaving the kids with an unknown sitter (the parents were from out of town).

  • Ed from Connecticut says:

    Great points, Ken!
    One of the obstacles to consider, too, is the cost of babysitting. If my wife and I want to see a show for grown-ups in NYC, that can mean $100 or more for a babysitter for the evening (1+ hour drive to NY + dinner + show + 1 hour drive back home), so your idea of free babysitting on the theater premises is excellent. That can significantly reduce the anticipated cost of a night out at the theater- and remove one of those big obstacles.

  • At our theatre we’re trying out a structured daycare that teaches children about theatre and the arts. We charge a nominal amount (enough to cover the cost of the instructors and materials used) and the children stay during the show and go to different “stations” to learn about theatre, music, and have free time and snacks. It’s a new program we launch in September. We figure we should break even on the cost to attend, but hopefully gain the ticket sales of the parents. In addition, we’re cultivating a whole new generation to appreciate the arts.

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