3 Things I learned from the Holiday Week.

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?


(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)



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  • Seyo says:

    I strongly agree with point number 3: I often find myself, a New Yorker, dispensing theater advice when I’m in line at TKTS. People wonder out loud about things and are discussing shows, and if I’ve seen the show I will always give my opinion. I am usually thanked profusely (or probed about what tickets I intend to buy as a “real New Yorker.”)

  • Mary says:

    One suggestion that I would have is have an Internet secure sit for hotel concierges and if they could get tix at a discount for people(1/2 price with a cut for them). An available summary sheet of what the shows are about at hotels, given out in the lines at TKTS. Maybe a number they could call and get quick summaries of shows on cell phones. Washington has these people in yellow jackets who give out tourist information, how about tourism bureau having some people like that.
    The bullet proof has got to go. It really frightens people.

  • ken marion says:

    When we can afford to have people in Times Square promoting shows maybe it would be helpful if each show or the League, etc. “contributed” a body that speaks more than one language and is identified as doing so; making TS a little more friendly.

  • Lynnette says:

    The 7PM curtain is still a good idea for locals as well as tourists. This week my friends were visiting from Amsterdam and it was a pleasure to see a show with them at 7 and then have dinner after the show. With an 8PM curtain, dinner is either rushed before the show or really late – 10:30 – 10:45 – after the show, by the time you get to the restaurant.

  • Brian Hajjar says:

    I do like the Christmas in July aspect! Haha.
    Maybe in the off-season, a earlier show time could attract the locals. Then during the holidays and other busy periods, the time can be put back to 8pm for the tourists who have busy days.
    I think to make it easier for the tourists to get this information quicker is for Broadway shows to submit a synopsis and information about discounted ticket prices to the concierge of different hotels around the city. It would enable the tourists to be prepared to face the scary city. This would allow the tourists to go into the theatre with a more positive attitude instead of a scared/tired one.
    Brian Hajjar

  • Frank says:

    I love reading your blog and always find it informative and insightful. On Your second point I must disagree. I own a jazz club in our great city and we too live for the week between Christmas and New Years. We have found that this city (including tourists) live for our early show. (7p.m.) When we opened 13 years ago we didn’t even start our first show until 10 pm. But something changed after September 11th. The vibe in NYC has steadily gotten earlier and earlier. Who would have thought that in New York City of all places, people would be lining up for dinner and jazz at 6:30 pm and the Midnight show is half empty, but that’s the way it is.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I definitely agree with all of these.
    Joyce@ Entertainment News Philippines

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