Got bait?

I feel a bit like the band I did a documentary on this week, because I’m in like five different cities in six days:  LA/Vegas/San Diego/LA/Portland.

The cool thing about these trips though is the tips and tricks I can pick up along the way, and share with you.

Today’s tip is sponsored by the town of Malibu (which I liked so much, I think they should change the name from Mali-boo to Mali-ohhh-yeah.)  I was driving through Mali-ohhh-yeah, and stopped at this cool, little, fancy, outdoor mall to get a bite at one of the cool, little restaurants within (I had a chicken sandwich from Mutts Grill, which was to cry for, btw).  In the middle of the shops and restaurants there was . . . a playground.

And that playground was overflowing with a bunch of Mali-ohhh-yeah kiddies.

So I don’t know if you know this, but . . . people under the age of 8 usually travel with people over the age of 25.  So if a kid says, “Mommy/Daddy, take me to the playground,” Mommy and Daddy (and their wallet full of credit cards), are really taking them to the mall.

The playground is the marketing bait that gets the fish closer to the hook.

It’s brilliant, of course, but it’s marketing without looking like marketing.  It’s a win-win.  Parents get a playground to take their kids to.  Stores get shoppers.

So what can we do, both in our theaters in NY, as well as the theaters all over the country to get more people closer, so that they might buy a ticket?

How about:

  • Free WiFi
  • Free coffee
  • Charging Stations
  • Fancy art collections
  • Local art collections
  • Theater Museums
  • Lectures
  • Classes
  • and . . . yep, a playground

The possibilities are . . . well . . . they are only limited by our own imagination.  But we should spend some time imagining.

Because sometimes the best way to expand an audience is to bait them into your building for another reason altogether, and then they’ll jump on your hook without you having to do a thing.

P.S.  If there’s something you think I should check out when I speed through one of those cities I mentioned, let me know!


(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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  • Mike says:

    Hey Ken!

    I like the enthusiasm for change and new life/ways of thought in theatre. You should check out CRASH –, we are all about new ideas and ways to engage an audience that normally might not take time to check out a play. We have mostly aways been a one man operation in collaboration with others, we are looking to expand exposure and work more with people of NYC theatre to get our ideas (which are fresh) out there.

    – Mike

  • Tim Heitman says:

    Were you able to get out on the water in San Diego? If not you need to next time. There are a bunch of boats at the piers at the end of Broadway that do the touristy bay cruises. If you can do one that includes a sunset, so much the better. It’s a beautiful city from most angles anyway but from the water, its a view that will stick with you for a lifetime.

  • Chris Edgar says:

    I like the idea of providing free wi-fi next to, or in the lounge of, the theater — as long as we make sure to have the equivalent of the ad shown in movie theaters of the shark from “Finding Nemo” gobbling up the guy using his iPhone. The short could be tailored to fit the theme of the show — if the play was “Macbeth,” for instance, maybe actors could portray a cell phone user having his head chopped off with a broadsword.

  • Evan Bradley-Lewis says:

    I was just talking about this with my mom and she was saying how it would be amazing if theatres had free child. She then told this story about when my older brother was an infant she and my dad had to give up outstanding tickets to “Les Misérables”, if the theatre had had free child care they could’ve seen the show.

  • Bruce says:

    Ken: Please no WiFi at the theatre. And no charging stations. And no free coffee. Theatre going is for 2 to 3 hours. Can’t people be without their mobile devices for that time? And can’t they refrain from eating? I’m in favor of blocking cell phones and iPads from being able to be used. And art collections? Maybe we should have theatrical productions in the art galleries too. Call me old fashioned, but none of this makes sense to me.

  • I love the idea of art being shown in theatres…gives visual artists a chance to show their work and perhaps make a sale.. I think it should be juried, etc. BUT back to Cali..when you are in Malibu do you go to Coogies? great place for a casual meal and super duper networking. Ulysses Greek Resatuarant in the L.A. farmers market area (outside & looks more like its part of the grove) – is another great place to dine and schmooze ever so casually…

  • I’ve been thinking for a while about putting together an event of new musicals in Brooklyn 3-5 short musicals in an evening. Then a friend I was talking with mentioned the idea of partnering with other industries or businesses–for instance, 5 musicals about cooking or art and catering from a nice restaurant. Interesting idea; even if the musicals don’t share subject matter I think the trend today with meetup and people spending so much time on the internet is people really want a social experience if they go out. Theaterlab which no longer exists on 14th street would always have wine and appetizers after any performance–“meet someone new”

    Matt Mezzacappa

  • Stephen says:

    Last year Playwrights Horizons got a grant that offered free child care if you were a season subscriber and only $15 if you just happened to buy tickets. Because of this we ended up subscribing – I mean, free babysitting? Come on! And we loved that our son was getting to play in rehearsal studios and got to see how important it was for his dads to see theatre – this was truly reaching the next generation in their most formative years. This year they weren’t able to get the grant and, as much as we loved having a subscription, we had to factor in the added cost of now hiring a babysitter again and canceled our subscription. I wish more theatres would follow this model – you’d suddenly get a whole audience that tends to stay away from theatre for a good 10-15 years, and get their kids at the same time.

  • Patty says:

    Hi Ken–I also like the idea of art in theatres- strong community of artists here in Las Vegas to draw from. BTW, if you are here in Vegas on Wed. night 9/19, you should go to the Composers Showcase at the Smith Center Cabaret–9:30 doors open–show at 10:30 must be all original compositions–Keith Thompson (musical dir.Jersey Boys) hosts. A wealth of talent from vocalists and musicians. Hope you will be in town then. Patty

  • L.B. says:

    Hello! I was truly excited to read Got Bait, especially when you mentioned your travels to my neck of the woods. That said, I immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion! Instinctively, my head filled with palatable thoughts of red wigglers, night crawlers, leeches, insects and – you probably guessed it – scent glands! For one brief shining moment I couldn’t see straight! When the haze cleared, something dawned on me: my take on great bait was actually pretty similar to yours. I liked your ideas, but the one that keeps me coming back is the free ticket giveaway. Short of an expertly tied fly, that’s the keeper!

    Thanks for all your advice!

    LB (northwest country girl)

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