Why Theater Tickets make horrible gifts and what we can do about it.

Happy Black Friday, y’all!

On this day, all around the country world, people start their holiday shopping in earnest.  Toys and clothes and hickory farm meat and cheese boxes will start flying off shelves.

But what about theater tickets?

Unfortunately, we don’t see theater tickets sell like the latest video game or the latest punch-me-in-the-face Elmo, or whatever is hot this year.  Because the truth is, they make crappy gifts.  Here’s why.

1.  Theater tickets are date specific.

No one wants to buy a gift for someone that has to be used on a certain day and time.  There’s a huge chance that the recipient just won’t be able to go.   And nothing makes a gift giver feel worse than giving something to someone that they never use.

2.  Theater tickets have to be bought in twos.

Theater tickets are expensive enough.  And when considering a gift of tickets, you can never get someone just one ticket.  You can’t say, “Go to this show alone!”  So you have to buy two.  And now you’ve dropped over $200.  How many people in your life do you spend more than $200 on?  (Oh, and it doesn’t help that our “price tag” can’t be removed.  What you paid is right on the ticket.)

3.  Our gift cards are generic.

Sure, one of the answers to the problems above is “get ’em a gift card.”  But when you get a gift for someone, you want to show your friend or family member that you put thought into it.  You want them to know that you picked out something that fits their personality.  Something they’d really like . . . like a specific show.  If you want to get a gift card in our business, you buy a Telecharge gift card.  Or a Ticketmaster gift card.  And that just doesn’t sound like love, does it?

 

I could go on and on as to why theater tickets don’t make great gifts.  But like I tell my employees and myself when faced with a problem – lets not dwell on the negative.  Let’s identify the problems and then crush them with solutions.  Here’s what I’ve got.

1.  Holiday Ticket Exchange

I know that our industry as a whole isn’t ready to adopt a ticket exchange policy yet (even though Disney is already there).  But what if we had a special offer for tickets purchased between Black Friday and Christmas Day for performances after New Year’s that could be exchanged?  Give the gift-getter the chance to go when they want, without making the giver feel like they are forcing their friends to do something they may not be able to do.

2.  Holiday Sales

Count how many Black Friday Broadway sale offers you get today.  I’ll tell you  . . . NONE!  Forget Broadway Week and Off Broadway Week, people are spending money now . . . today . . .  so I’d offer a 2-for-1 Black Friday sale for tickets between January 5th and the end of February.  We’d build an advance during our crappiest time of the year, and encourage people to give the gift of theater going.

3.  Brand our gift cards.

Do you want to give/get a Telecharge gift card or a Phantom gift card or a Book of Mormon gift card?  Which one sounds more personal and even more valuable to you?  We need to allow shows to sell their own gift cards.  Oh, and by the way, we need them to be able to control the money if they aren’t used (right now the ticketing company just keeps control of the funds – and since tons of gift cards aren’t redeemed, it becomes a big profit center).  (We did this for Godspell – but it wasn’t easy.)

I could go on and on . . . but this is something we all need to do together.  There are billions being spent right now, and Broadway doesn’t have enough of a piece of it.

Have you ever purchased tickets for someone as a gift?  Why or why not?  What do you think we can do to increase holiday ticket buying?

 

(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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Comments
  • Philip V says:

    But wouldn’t it be great if there was a specific Jujamcyn or Nederlander or Shubert Group gift card that’s good for any of their (and only their) shows? They don’t have to be show-specific (though that would be great, too), but by allowing them for the whole group of theatres, they can be used even if the specific show closes (because they’d never be refunded if the show closed early).

  • Sue Cohen says:

    When I was 20-something I bought my parents tickets to A Chorus Line for Christmas. They opened the envelope then told me they had already seen the show in Boston! I was so disappointed. I ended up selling one to someone on the TKTS line and using the other myself. I have not bought theater tickets for a gift since, unless I confirmed the interest and date ahead of time (thus ruining any surprise).
    How about finding a way to offer a Black-Friday-priced package, including transportation/parking, dinner and a show? The tickets aren’t the only expensive part of the event.

  • Lynn Manuell says:

    I totally agree with you. Years ago the League had a Broadway credit card so it would be terrific if they had a Broadway or Telecharge gift card. I found a card today I had bought years ago that was a very fancy engraved gift of Let’s Go See a Show!. It means the person can pick the show and time and it still gives tickets. I use it often. Tickets are very special gifts that give experience instead of more stuff.

  • Carvanpool says:

    Unreserved gift cards aren’t profitable to the ticketing companies. The cash gets turned over to the state as unclaimed property after whatever the time proscribed by law.

  • Kris andersson says:

    As a tour producer, we always are involved in Black Friday sales for arts centers around the country. I have always wondered why they don’t do something similar for broadway. Makes no sense. That is always a huge sales day for my shows since people get subscriptions and single tickets as gifts that day. Why the hell doesn’t NY do this to pad their cold winter months when they are ordinarily suffering from low attendance? Never made sense to me when we do it on the road to great success

  • Emil Kreymer says:

    I really hate giving random cards for the holidays. Nothing screams more like “I just bought you a present because I had too and your not worth more to me then a 5-min stop at a gas station” then a random gift card. Remember how it is the thought that is suppose to count? Well, the gift card destroy that. I do have a possible solution to help out those looking to give a specific theater show. Maybe it would make sense to do it like the airlines do.
    Block of 10-seats in the mezz and in the balcony for upcoming shows.
    The person buying the gift can buy seats in either section without a specific date or time.
    However, the recipient needs to call and have the tickets assigned between Dec 26 – Dec 31.
    After Dec 31 the seats are released back to the public.
    Now, when buying the seats the purchaser can opt to buy insurance.
    If his recipients do not call in time to get the seats on the date/time they want the ticket will be
    refunded via a regular visa card.
    This allows:
    A) Give the gift of tickets to a show
    B) The ability for the recipients to pick day/time they want to go as long as they call early enough
    C) By Dec 31 availability is released back to the theater
    D) Even if the date / time is not available and a refund is issued their is still a profit from the insurance
    E) Since the payment went through the theater if tickets are not used the money stays with the
    theater.

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