GUEST BLOG: Tips for Finding the Perfect Venue for Your Project by Britt Lafield

So you have raised all the capital for your production, you have your cast, you have your crew and marketing team. Great! Now you need a theater. In many ways, your theater is as important as the script, the director, and the cast. It is a physical extension of your production, and finding the right one is a major step in producing a success.

Having been a theatrical producer for many years and the General Manager of several theaters in the metropolitan New York area, I have seen shows that looked like their set was meant to be in a space and sets that have been shoe-horned in. I have dealt with shows that started out thinking the theater was totally wrong for their production, only to get creative and change the space to fit their needs, making their productions even more memorable in the process. Finding a theater is like buying a house. It is not something to be done on a whim without careful forethought.

To continue the house simile:  if you were looking to buy a house would you just look at the color of the walls? Likely not.  So here are some things to keep in mind while shopping for a theater.

  • Be realistic about your sales potential. The majority of your weekly running costs will be your theater rental, and a smart choice in venue will allow you to absorb and ride out the lean, tough weeks (like previews), freeing up money to be spent on marketing and advertisement. We all want our shows to sell out their entire run and perform forever – but know your target audience and don’t get a theater larger then you think you can sell. If you realistically think you will sell 75 to 100 seats a night, there is no reason to get a 250-seat theater, even if it’s available and in a good location. Having a two-week run in a prestigious theater is not as impressive as running a year in a lesser known space. If you underestimate your sales and suddenly find yourself not having enough seats to get everyone in every night, well there are a lot worse problems then having a “SOLD OUT” notice on your ticketing site for days on end. And you can always transfer if that need becomes evident.
  • Know your needs and prioritize them. Like so many things in life, you will probably not find a venue that satisfies all your needs. Go into your search with a list of what is important, and put them in order of priority. Is the number of seats your greatest priority? Or is having an intimate space so the audience feels like they are in the room with your actors what you are looking for? Do you need wing space or is a stage that is fixed-wall to fixed-wall okay? What about grid height? Do you want your set to be a house with two stories or does the action take place in a trailer? Think of every aspect of your production and take them all into account when looking for a theater. Solving set or lighting problems before you even load into the theater will help your budget and your frame of mind.
  • Realize that different theaters will provide you with different amenities. Some spaces come with a lighting package in-house. Some have an amazing sound system. Some come with nothing and you have to rent it all (a “four wall” deal). Are you producing a musical with a lot of lighting effects or a kitchen sink drama that wants more practical light? Does your sound design want effects to be coming from every corner of the theater or is it an acapella musical? Theaters charge you for what they give you. So why get a space that charges you more for lighting or sound when you don’t need it (see Item 2)?
  • Think of the experience you want your audience to have. I am a firm believer that the show doesn’t start when the lights go down, but as soon as the audience member enters the space (even before that, if you can pull it off). Make the common spaces like the lobby reflect your production. If the set is a Victorian manor, make the lobby into another room in the house. If the location is a town’s Main Street, make your concessions area into the local bar. The more you make the show an all-around and immersive experience for the audience, the more they will remember it. It is perfectly fine to simply have your production in a beautiful theater, but in this age of massive digital influx, theatre (and your production) must find ways to make any theatrical experience a unique one.

As in every aspect of producing theatre there will be surprises when dealing with your venue, so anticipate them as best you can. The more prepared you are before you enter into your search, the more questions you already have an answer to, the better it will be for your overall production.

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Britt Lafield is the General Manager of the Davenport Theatre and an independent theatrical producer with 20 years experience in New York and Regional Theater, having produced on every level in New York, short of Broadway. He was also the Festival Administrator for the New York International Fringe Festival from 2009- 2013, and is the creator and producer of the Fringe Encore Series that just celebrated is 11th Anniversary.

Broadway Grosses w/e 12/2/2018: Grosses Temper After Holiday Heat

It was back to reality this week coming off a record-breaking Thanksgiving week. Total grosses fell to $38M, down 12% from the previous week.

Although total attendance was unchanged this week, the average paid ticket dropped by $18 following a week where premium prices were high and discounts scarce.

You can find the rest of the figures below, courtesy of The Broadway League:

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn %Capacity AvgPdAdm
AMERICAN SON $598,514.10 4,977 80.38% $120.26
ANASTASIA $652,184.30 6,789 74.25% $96.06
BEAUTIFUL $789,154.26 6,887 83.91% $114.59
CELEBRITY AUTOBIOGRAPHY $41,882.00 1,336 81.56% $31.35
CHICAGO $631,323.61 7,368 85.28% $85.68
COME FROM AWAY $1,144,391.35 8,502 101.60% $134.60
DEAR EVAN HANSEN $1,401,387.65 7,639 97.04% $183.45
FROZEN $1,850,444.60 13,062 96.96% $141.67
HAMILTON $2,947,169.00 10,735 101.58% $274.54
HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, PARTS ONE AND TWO $2,024,212.50 12,976 100.00% $156.00
HEAD OVER HEELS $160,862.50 2,654 34.45% $60.61
KING KONG $943,849.75 10,280 73.94% $91.81
KINKY BOOTS $713,878.55 8,057 70.73% $88.60
MEAN GIRLS $1,272,934.75 9,485 96.79% $134.21
MY FAIR LADY $1,074,613.50 7,360 86.06% $146.01
NETWORK $1,097,763.00 8,136 100.20% $134.93
ONCE ON THIS ISLAND $361,134.90 4,212 75.65% $85.74
PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL $1,205,530.20 8,813 94.32% $136.79
SCHOOL OF ROCK $733,386.90 8,235 67.59% $89.06
SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY $1,929,320.00 3,792 100.00% $508.79
SUMMER $511,549.50 5,720 48.64% $89.43
THE BAND’S VISIT $751,464.10 7,197 86.59% $104.41
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,158,059.50 8,619 102.90% $134.36
THE CHER SHOW $1,075,110.00 10,386 94.08% $103.52
THE FERRYMAN $967,901.46 7,019 86.10% $137.90
THE ILLUSIONISTS – MAGIC OF THE HOLIDAYS $904,020.00 9,886 75.44% $91.44
THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT $809,880.50 6,565 81.74% $123.36
THE LION KING $2,198,618.00 13,567 99.99% $162.06
THE NEW ONE $247,548.50 4,570 53.24% $54.17
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $883,873.80 9,747 75.91% $90.68
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG $283,366.46 4,534 66.36% $62.50
THE PROM $556,472.80 6,640 79.43% $83.81
THE WAVERLY GALLERY $448,634.50 5,339 84.80% $84.03
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD $1,336,029.50 11,569 100.64% $115.48
TORCH SONG $220,458.50 3,041 64.98% $72.50
WAITRESS $600,000.90 6,003 71.81% $99.95
WICKED $1,874,882.00 14,266 98.69% $131.42
TOTALS $37,805,785.34 299,411 83.45% $122.64
+/- THIS WEEK LAST SEASON +$7,822,940.12      
PERCENTAGE +/- THIS WEEK LAST SEASON 26.09%      

 

Today’s blog was guest-written by Ryan Conway, General Manager for DTE Management. Find out more here!

Podcast Episode 169 – The Tony Nominated Director of Natasha Pierre & Hadestown, Rachel Chavkin

“What about Rachel Chavkin?”

If you’ve asked someone for ideas on who should direct a project recently, I’d bet money that you’ve heard those four words.

Rachel is one of the hottest directors on the market today, thanks to the success of Natasha, Pierre, the upcoming Hadestown (which wasn’t even announced for Broadway when we recorded this podcast), and more.  Audiences, Critics and Producers alike all see something very special in her unique style and know good things are in store.

That’s why the other five words you hear in conversations about new projects and new directors are . . .

“Rachel Chavkin would be perfect.”

Rachel and I talked about being an in-demand director as well as . . .

  • How performing 10-minute pieces helped her find her directorial voice.
  • The difference between teching a show on Broadway and teching a show anywhere else.
  • Why she’s ok with a messy rehearsal process and how it helps.
  • Why she doesn’t like to give advice.
  • Her reaction to the immersive movement and her part in it.

After listening, I’d bet money that if someone asks you for a recommendation for a Director next week, guess what you say?

Enjoy!

Click here for my podcast with Rachel!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review while you’re there!)

Download it here.

My 5 Friday Finds: Zoom a zoom zoom.

Here are my five favorite things that caught my eye this week, theater-related or not!

  1. Watch out Skype, there’s a new kid in town.

Have you Zoomed, yet?  If you’re tired of Skype updating itself every time you log on or just think it looks a bit like MySpace, check out Zoom.  I just changed all my video conferencing to this platform and I’m never going back.  In fact, I even paid for it. It’s a private company that I expect will get bought out or go public someday soon.  I’d invest, that’s how good of a product it is.

  1. I paid $125, for this book.

I went to a marketing conference recently and got such a strong word of mouth recommendation on this book that I bought it for $125.  And that’s not even on Amazon.  On Amazon, it’s going for this much! (Go ahead guess and then click.)  Why was I willing to pay that much?  First, the WOM was that good.  Second, $125 is less than the cost of one ticket.  Certainly, I will learn enough from the book to sell one more ticket.  Too often we don’t like at the potential ROI of something we purchase.  We just think, “It’s too expensive.”  But is something that costs $1,000 too expensive, if it could earn you $100k return?  I’m 10 pages into this book, and I feel it has already helped me sell 100 more tickets.

  1. We keep pulling Magicians out of our hat.

Another magician in residence was enough for the city this week.  I count about a half dozen in the last couple of years, not to mention The Illusionists, currently making buckets of money on Broadway (again).  This is no longer a phase, no longer a trend, and it’s not going to “disappear” anytime soon. Is it time for Copperfield to return?  Where is David Blaine when we need him?

  1. A lesson in inspiration and entrepreneurship from a Broadway Star.

I instagrammed these little note-card nuggets from Sierra Boggess this week, but they deserve another mention here.  Not only because I find them helpful, but also because I love when artists follow their passion and become entrepreneurs.  Get yours here.

  1. You’ve got 44 chances left.

Once on this Island, one of the most unique, exciting and theatrical Broadway shows I’ve ever seen, not only produced, has 44 performances left on Broadway before we close on January 6th.  Go see it.  We won a Tony over two GLORIOUS productions of other classic musicals.  There’s a reason.  Click here to get your tickets now.

Happy holiday shopping!

How Airlines Sell More First Class Seats and What That Means for Broadway.

If you’ve flown first class or business class, I’d bet you the price of your own airplane that you want to fly it again.

Not only is it a more comfortable flying experience, but there’s this whole status thing that comes along with it.

And the airlines love it when you (or more likely the company you work for) shells out buckets of cash for your lay-flat bed or in-flight hot fudge sundae.

But let’s face it.  How many people are willing to pay 10x or more the cost of an economy ticket for those few hours in the air?

That price resistance is a huge obstacle that the airlines have to overcome.

How do they get you to do it?

They give it away.

One of the primary benefits of frequent flyer programs is the chance that you’ll get upgraded when you fly with one airline a ton. I’m sure you’ve all seen that “upgrade list” on a monitor as you’ve prepared to board your flight. Those are all folks who paid economy but are praying for a bump to the better class of service.

Why do the airlines offer this opp?

Yes, it’s a big perk to get you to fly one airline more than another (those who fly more, get a better chance at their name being called).

But the airlines also know that the first sentence of this blog is so true, they’re willing to give it up for free because they know the chance of you paying a premium price later goes way up.

Because once you go first, it’s hard to go to the back.

The airlines know you’ll fly with them more to get more mileage to use for upgrades. You’ll beg your boss for biz class to be included in your contract. You’ll get the airline credit card just to get even more mileage.

It all adds up.

They give away the premium experience to gain your premium dollars in the future.

How does the this translate to what we do?

Well, it is a fact that . . .

The profitability of Broadway shows depends on the full price buyer. Discounts can keep shows going so that you can get to the full price seasons (Xmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s), but for a show to be “wicked” profitable, you want full price.

Therefore . . .

To achieve greater profitability we need more full-price buyers.

To use the airline model, if we found a way to give away our “first class” seats (first ten rows, aisle seats, etc.) to people who haven’t experienced being ten feet away from Bryan Cranston or being so close they can hear Jesse Mueller’s voice come from her mouth instead of through a speaker, I’d bet they’d never want to sit in our cheap seats again.

Could we do this through our loyalty programs? Is this an industry-wide initiative or something single shows could do?

What about random “surprise and delight” upgrades where you just walk someone from the balcony down to some unsold premium seats (I’ve done this at a few of my shows).

Show people what they are missing, and they’ll never want to miss out on that experience again.

– – – – –

Want to read more marketing tips like this one? We’ve got webinars and exclusive articles all right here that are guaranteed to get you more butts in seats for more bucks.

Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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