What the Theater can learn from Cigarettes.

In a major win for . . . well . . . everyone . . . CVS became the first national drugstore chain to announce that it was taking all tobacco products, from cigarettes to snuff, off its shelves. It’s their attempt to help those that are trying to quit this life-sucking habit and prevent kids from starting.

It’s awesome and I encourage every other pharmacy to follow their ignoring-of-the-bottom-line lead.

What’s amazing is that it won’t make a dent in the horrific problem we know as tobacco addiction.

I can’t help but wish the theatre was that addictive. Think about it.  We’ve got a lot in common with this cancer causer (minus the harmful chemicals and the manipulation of the youth, of course).

Like theater tickets, cigarettes are ridiculously expensive (and keep going up every year). You can’t get ‘em everywhere, and usage is limited to specific locations.  It’s not as cool to be a smoker as it used to be, and as much as we hate to admit it, to most of the population, it’s not the coolest thing to want to go see a play anymore either.

But despite all that, cigarette enthusiasts will do anything, go anywhere, and pay just about anything to fuel their addiction even when they know how bad it is for them!  (If this country wasn’t founded on tobacco, it would have been outlawed decades ago.)

So how . . . how can we create this kind of fever . . . or even half of this fever in the general population?  What do we need to do to our product, to our marketing, to our customer service to not make people want to see a Broadway show, but to need to see a Broadway show?

That, my friends, if you choose to accept it, is our challenge.

Oh, and if you smoke, please quit.  In fact, first five smokers to email me that say they want to quit, I’ll buy you your first Nicoderm Patch when you sign your stop-smoking pledge.  I’ll also bug you constantly about how quitting will help you add years to your life.  Email me here.


(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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  • Elisa Christina Clayton says:

    I hate to be redundant (not) but my comment to yesterday’s blog applies to this one too:

    Until, Producers and Artistic Directors have the guts and inclination to buck their fear of upsetting or offending their wealthy investors, by also upholding the tradition of utilizing theatre as a bastion of democracy,like the Ancient Greeks did(i.e. producing more plays that are central to society itself and encourage consciousness and social change), rather than fare that regurgitates movie after movie (albeit there are exceptions)and panders to the wealthy classes. Then theatre will prove itself irrelevant to the mass majority and the audience base will continue to decline.

    • Elisa Christina Clayton says:

      Let me add Broadway theatre owners to the list and not just pick on Producers and Artistic Directors, who are increasingly at their mercy!

  • Kim says:

    Thumbs up Elisa!

  • Jeff says:

    If you look at what caused the popularity of smoking to really take off, you will notice that many people put it down to the old movies and seeing actors that people love taking an oh so sexy drag on their cigarette.

    If you can find a way to get live theatre as a general thing that movie stars do on screen then you might have a chance if hitting that cool factor.

  • janis says:

    Making Broadway as addictive as tobacco is a reach, but possible I suppose if you doctored the popcorn or something.
    A more viable goal might be to compete for the computer game addict. The addiction is believed to occur when the occasional gamer experiences the endorphin rush normally produced by accomplishment of a difficult task.
    Of course few occasional game players become addicted, but game addiction is apparently an increasing problem and the addiction is almost as strong as to drugs or cigarettes which btw contain many addictive substances in addition to nicotine.
    Of course the accomplishments of gamers are all onscreen and in their mind, but experts say overcoming the obstacles designed into the games produces the same endorphins as actual accomplishments. And endorphins create higher highs than drugs or nicotine. It is believed that the highs of accomplishment are intellectual while the high of a Broadway show might be more spiritual and emotional thus not as easily replicated.
    Several scientific studies are being conducted of internet game and gambling addiction. Perhaps some of the results of those studies could be applied to Broadway.
    Just a thought.

  • Sue Lechner says:

    Maybe I am missing something, but if the media paid as much attention to theatre and the arts as they do the major sports/sporting events you wouldn’t be writing this blog and we wouldn’t have to comment. The print/electronic/social media/ coverage afforded to football/basketball etc. etc. has placed their value in the top bracket of American sensibilities. What if the arts had been as highly lauded instead of sports for all these decades. Where would we be now.

  • George says:

    Well, as a REAL “Liberal” (under the original definition described by Locke, Adam Smith and Burke) and not the cover for socialist, totalitarian, Utopianism…

    I got a real problem with self-appointed elites picking and choosing other people’s poison… as much as I have with dictating secularist “morality”

    I have not doubt that smoking is a fithy, dirty, addictive… quick way to the morgue.

    And so what? Really. Alcohol? Recreational Drugs? 32 oz of liquified sugar… we would all live much longer if people stuck to my 40g carb diet… sex in the wrong place? with the wrong people…

    I mean REALLY at what point is a person “free” at this poingt w/o the advocacy that GOVERNMENT should control such – personal – choices of how people want to live an die???

    So – right off the bat – I have to say that I certainly don’t find the Nanny State restrictions on smoking (which is the ONLY reason that it is expensive) and more attractive than theatre the preaches how I could be a “perfect” person if I just did what self appointed prophets TOLD me I should do, or say or believe… because someone these people half my age and one tenth of my experience somehow presumed to know and feel more than I do???

    People don’t become addicted to Tyranny… they may quietly accept it (up to a point) but no one wants to be told the “right” way to think according to the self appointed priests of Big Govt taught by the Jesuits of the Modern Socialized Uber State… just ask the Catholics how successful the Miracle, Morality and Mystery Plays were… and that, at least promised “Heaven” now all we hope for is Obamacare….

    I will go with one part of the analogy:

    The only reason that cigs are so expenses is the sin taxes that GOVT puts on the product – purely to enrich itself..

    And the only reason the Theatre is so expensive is because of the unions and govt grants that hike up the costs so that there are fewer productions and those productions stymied by upfront costs that limit the time it would take for a new “product” to attract an audience.

    So – in both cases – a perfect willingness to let polticians and lawyers and judges take over our lives and our liberty… is embraced as some sort of “solution” (and those who don’t agree… well “Off with their Habits!”


  • George says:

    p.s. here’s a concepts – there is no tabula rasa “audience” – its made up of people… the most of whom are pretty darn smart, experienced and who live in the real world. I say, if ya wanna “preach” start a church (they are tax free too!) and the people who are willing to put up $$$ for Live Theatre want to make their money back… so it all comes back to what will put “butts in seats” vs in Movie Theatres, Stadiums or sitting on the Coach playing Video Games. It’s a Business.

  • Kathleen Smith says:

    I admit it. I am a live theater addict. I attend live theater in NYC about once a month even though transportation is about $150 reound trip. Then there is the price of the ticket, usually tickets. Why not get as many shows as possible for the same transporation cost?

    How to get people in the seats for the first time? It is not a necessity to many. It needs to be made something making life special. I do not know how to do that.

    Also, once a person has seen a show, they must be shown it is not a waste of funds to go see the same show more than once as each show is different. I know I saw Alter Boys at least 35 times. It was what I needed to get through a capital murder trial.

    The main stumbling block though is getting them to the theater the first time. Once the solution of getting the person in the theater for the first time is solved, attendance will improve exponentially.

    • janis says:

      You are the addict every Broadway show should be after.
      Not all people (including me) get high on pot, cigarettes, booze or computer games. But take me to a Broadway musical and I’ll be stoned on it all plus a little ecstasy.
      And when it’s my own show, I get high when the musical arrangements are right, when the singers sing great, when the dancers dance beautifully and when the actors act.
      Then I see it all onstage and someone has to scrape me off the ceiling. Every laugh, tear and hand clapping is mine and I love them every one.
      No nicotine, no drugs, no games. Just give me a show.
      Kathleen, I was hooked when I saw my first show and I’m still hooked. Broadway needs more addicts like us.

  • Mike bauer says:

    Here is an idea when I leave a broadway show- musical in particular – all I can think of is wow I wish I was in that or I wish I could do that. What if we made an experience where after that show people could come onstage and join that world, maybe learn a 15 or 20 min easy dance routine with the cast onstage or come onstage and sing a song with them on the set? Not everyone would do it I’m sure but after the show you can at least extend the invitation. I think it would cater to exactly what you are talking about- it would create a cult following in much the same way that Disney creates cult followings who want to visit their parks and meet their costumed characters. Did you see what newsies did with their cast trading cards that they gave away at the stage door? That kind of thing is great and it makes cult followers. I know having audience onstage probably presents all kinds of insurance risks but it breaks that wall of you are audience and I am performer and it says we are a community. Just brainstorming here.

  • Paul L says:

    I’m beginning to feel like dear Al Capp. He characterized himself as one who “was an expert on nothing with opinions on everything”.

    Come on you guys. We live in a capitalistic society. Do you want the government to get into this. Oh, they’ll do it if we pay for it. We can call it obamastage. “Red Detachment of Women” anybody.

    You take the profit motive out of this, and Broadway is dead. Most productions already don’t pay. So when the producers make a buck you want to howl.Cut it out.

    Do you really know what killed tobacco in this country? Think about it. Sure the medical reports were important. I quit when my children came along. I started smoking when I was twelve. I quit cigarettes at 31. But I continued to smoke cigars. One day we were invited to a party, and the hostess asked my wife if she could prevail upon me to not smoke in her house. I was dumbfounded, and it finally clicked. It had become “SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE” to smoke. That is with the people that I ran with anyway.

    So here’s the thing. How do you make it socially unacceptable to “not go to theater. And, additionally, be able to discuss “talk the game” your experiences with other folks.

    Well, you guys are the creative geniuses in this. Write a TV advertisement. I’ll set the scene. A attractive couple is discussing a list of people they are going to have to their party.
    They start realizing that some of their friends are more exciting than others in what they are doing around town and how they talk about it in gatherings like their party.

    What are we doing here. We’re saying it is socially unacceptable to not be an interesting guest. That shouldn’t be too difficult to get across, especially since it’s true.

    The winner is going to get a huge gift from Ken as soon as it goes on the air. (I keep telling him I don’t make bad deals. 🙂

    Good Luck.

    Best, Paul.

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