Another pricing post. Don’t “cry” – this one is only $54!

I couldn’t help but continue with my pricing motif when I saw the Cry Baby marquis this weekend advertising “All Tickets for Previews Only $54!”  (The show is set in 1954. Get it?  1954.  $54.)

The hopeful Producers of Hairspray II are betting that this reduced price (about the same as what the price would have been at the TKTS booth) will pull in more of an audience during the ever important early weeks, when a show’s expenses are high and grosses are low.

But will it work?

By slashing their prices across the board, they have eliminated the consumer’s option for choice, which breaks my Kardinal Kenism:

There is always someone who wants to fly first class.

First class may seem out of reach for most of us, and a full price ticket might seem too expensive for an unproven show in previews for most of us as well, but data shows there is always someone who will buy it, no matter what the price is.  They just want “the best.”  Dance of the Vampire, Moose Murders, Carrie . . . all of the biggest flops in history had full price ticket buyers during previews.  Stupid ones, but still.  My opinion?  Just take the money.

The other problem with across the board pricing strategy is that your
TKTS price is proportionally adjusted.  So, the Producers of Cry Baby aren’t only losing income from the potential $115 ticket buyer who is now
paying $54, but they’re also losing money from the people who would have
paid $57.50 at the booth (50% of $115) who are now going to pay $27 (and remember – at the TKTS booth, you don’t see the actual prices display . . . only 25%, 35% or 50% off, so the customer thinks they are all the same).

The Producers of Baby are smart people.  They understand the above theory.  But obviously they believe two things:

  • They believe they are going to sell approximately 2x the number of tickets from this promotion than they would have sold using traditional pricing.  Even if they sell the same, they will have double the butts in the seats.  And more bodies = more word of mouth.
  • The public discount will allow them to spend less on advertising so they can avoid certain email blasts, direct mail, etc. which reduces their overall expenses.

Time and Variety will tell how this theory works, but if I were playing my favorite game, I would have made a different call.

I would have priced it more traditionally, based on my first class rule above, and because I don’t believe that the price is that remarkable of a call to action.

Then I would price the entire house for just the first preview at $19.54.

That’s a price worth talking about.  And it would have gotten the most people in to the see the show early, so they would hopefully stop talking about price.

And start talking about the show.

The Lean Forward Factor

I saw Farnsworth on Saturday; a good play made into an even better one because of a little Kenism I like to call, ‘The Lean Forward Factor.’

Like most things that are a significant part of our adult lives, good or bad, the Lean Forward Factor is something I learned as a kid.

One of my first experiences with the LFF was when I saw the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  I was already scared to see it, but then, right when the movie started, a simple text teaser crawled across the screen explaining that what we were about to see was based on a true story.  Gulp!  An actual Leatherface?  Holy crap.  What did I do besides almost pee in my PJs?  I leaned forward.  All of a sudden I was really scared . . . and really involved.

My other childhood LFF experience that would forever change my view of entertainment?  The LittlesThe Littles were a series of kids’ books about people living in the walls.  They had mice tails and were so small they used sewing spools for tables and were always afraid the cat was going to eat them.

When I got to the end of one of the books, I noticed a note from the author buried on the last page.  It said that only he and the illustrator knew the true whereabouts of The Littles, and he had been sworn to secrecy.  Actual little people living in the walls?  What did I do?  I leaned forward.  And I wouldn’t let my cat inside the house for 3 days.

Both of these are classic examples of LFF.  By using a tease of truth, the authors got me much more involved.

Your audience will always be more affected by your work if they think it could affect them personally, or in the case of Farnsworth, if it already has affected them personally (it’s hard not to ahh, when you hear how NBC was formed, or laugh when a character makes a comment about how no one would dirty their living room with an ugly television set).

True crime novels, movies like JFK, musicals like Ragtime, reality television, Shakespeare and even Santa Claus all use LFF to help draw you in and heighten your experience.

How do you use it?

(Ironically, both Chainsaw and The Littles weren’t even being honest . . . but did it matter?  I still get freaked out by Leatherface.  And I don’t have a cat.)

I Have To Pee.

And I know exactly where I want to “go”.

For the past two years, Charmin has set up public restrooms in the middle of Times Square for anyone and everyone to use.

For those of you who have seen the restrooms, but have never gone inside, you missed out on a true marketing trifecta.

Let’s count the many reasons why this is one of the most genius non-stunts I have seen:

  • They made restrooms remarkable.
    • Can you think of any other subject that is more delicate than
      the human elimination system?  Well, Charmin celebrated it.  They had
      cheerleaders.  They had music.  They cleaned each stall after each use.
      And my personal favorite?  They had the softest carpet you’ve ever
      felt.
  • They were guaranteed people’s “business” (I’ll stop with the puns now).
    • Restrooms are a necessary commodity. We all have to eat.  And we all have to go.  There will always be a market for restrooms at the one of the busiest intersections in the world.
  • They had no competition.
    • Before the Charmin restrooms, there were no public restrooms in Times Square.  They were the only supplier, and we’re practically drowning in demand!  It’s like putting a water fountain in the middle of the Sahara.
  • They incorporated trackable direct response.
    • They gave away coupons, which will help drive sales and provide some sense of a R.O.I.  Music to any marketers ears.
  • They surveyed.
    • On your way out, they asked everyone where they were from and whether or not they preferred soft or strong.  They learned about their customers, and then for fun they published the results on their website.

Why is this a trifecta?  Because it contains the three Rs:  It feels Required.  You get quantifiable Results.  And it is soooo very Remarkable.

They’ll even get a bonus R:  Return customers.  I know I’ll be back next year.  How many bathrooms get repeaters?  (If that sounded like a pun, it wasn’t meant to be.  It was an accident.  Hehe.)

“How Do I Get The Stage Rights To A Book/Movie/Play, etc.?” (Updated 2018).

When I was a Company Manager, I used to tell my assistants that if we ever got the same question from more than two company members, we hadn’t done our job.  If more than two people asked what time our flight was to the next city, or asked us to explain their paychecks to them, then we hadn’t anticipated the needs of our company or communicated information that was important to them fast enough.

I believe this is a great way to measure your success as a manager.  No questions?  Nice job.

Using that definition of my job as a blogger, I have failed you.

I have been asked a few times recently how to go about obtaining the rights to a book or movie or play, etc. in order to turn that property into a Broadway show.

The good news?  It’s easy to ask for the rights.  The bad news is that it’s harder to get an answer.

Sometimes it’s hard just figuring out where to start.  Here are a few tips, classified by the type of property you are going after.

  • BOOK
    • Find the Publisher of the book (look at the first few inside pages) and call them.  Most publishing companies will have entire departments dedicated to rights.  I find that I get the quickest answers on the availability of rights from publishers (probably because disposition of rights is such a large source of their revenue).  If they can’t give you a straight answer, they should be able to tell you the agent for the author and you can contact the agent directly.  They may ask for something in writing (see below).
  • MOVIE
    • The first question is to find out if the movie is an original or if it was based on earlier work.  If it was based on a book or short story or a note jotted on a napkin, go after the original author first before approaching the movie company.  Odds are that you are going to have to go to the movie company anyway, but you’re much more likely to get a response (and a positive one) from the person who has the most invested in the project (the original author), rather than someone in the legal department of a billion dollar conglomerate.  You can get the original author on your side, find out more info about what rights the movie company actually owns, and develop a strategy from there.
    • If it’s an original screenplay, then you are definitely going to have to approach the movie company.  You can also approach the author of the screenplay at the same time, using the same theory as the above, but if the script was written for MGM, then expect MGM to hold most of the cards.  Movie companies get a ton of rights requests (for clips, etc.) so they will always want something in writing.  Call the company and find out to whom to send the request.  Send it, and then follow up with a phone call.  Then wait and wait.  And keep following up.  I once got a response months later via the mail.  I mean, they couldn’t just send an email?
  • PLAY
    • Theater writers always own their material, as opposed to screenwriters who have to sell their soul to the mighty movie companies.  Therefore, seek out the author directly, through the Dramatists Guild (if they are a member) or their agent, or by visiting Angus.
  • OTHER MEDIUMS
    • All of the above principles can be applied to other mediums as well, from optioning websites to television shows to clothing lines.  Most people have agents or lawyers or production companies that you can track down through Google.  If at all possible, get to the person, not the agent.

Another related question I get is “Should I have a lawyer make this inquiry for me?”  Lawyers can make you seem more “serious” or “official”, especially if you lack credits.  Lawyers can also get you a speedier response if you hire a firm that does business with these agents or movie companies all the time.  The downside is that lawyers cost bucks.  Beacoup de bucks.  So, I often advise people on limited budgets to make the request yourself first (do yourself a favor and make up some good looking fax stationery with a logo and a production company name).  If you don’t get a response, you can always go the lawyer route later.

This process is really easier than it seems.  The key to it is to just start.  Summon up some Oliver-like courage and just ask for what you want.  Always thought your favorite book would make a great movie?  Musical?  Greeting card?  Ask.  It literally can take as little as 15 minutes to get the request off.  Just by asking the question, you’ve started the ball rolling down the hill of getting your show done.

If they aren’t available, you can move on to the next project, and stop saying, “The Alienist would make such a good film!” (I just found out that Scott Rudin has been sitting on the rights.  Scott, if you are reading (or if your assistant is reading this for you), I’ll take those rights – name your price.)

And, you can keep asking for them.  I sent one request per year for five years before I got the rights to Somewhere In Time.  Put a reminder in your Outlook to ask every year at the same time.  Don’t give up until you get the rights or they take out a restraining order against you.

And then form a dummy corporation under another name and ask again.

_ _ _ _

Did you enjoy this post? How about a look at the other side of the rights holders? Visit my post A Note to all the Rights Holders out there, to see suggestions of a different way the rights holders and those seeking them should look to when putting together new musicals.

Get more knowledge about the industry, monthly newsletters and webinars—like How to Get the Rights to…Anything, plus a Tip of the Week email, when you join TheProducersPerspectivePRO today.

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The 4th F!

In my post about the 3Fs, I forgot an F!

And it’s an important one.

The fourth F is . . .

F*** it.

Great producers know when to give up.  Great producers know when to close a show, when to stop throwing good development money after bad, and when to move on to something else.

It’s tough, because as artists we get very emotionally attached to our projects/children.  But like investing in the stock market, you have to know when to sell a loser.  It actually takes more courage to close a show than to open one.

We will all have to do it at some point in our careers.  So embrace your inner swearin’ sailor and say F*** it.

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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