Rant alert: Stop telling me you can’t afford theater tickets!

I was teasing an industry friend of mine the other day who shall remain nameless (although I am biting my fingertips right now–I so want to type it) because he hadn’t seen Miss Abigail’s Guide . . . yet.  I was actually going to let him off the hook when he pulled me aside and said, “Ken, listen, in all seriousness, I am going through a tough time right now . . . and I haven’t seen ANY theater because frankly, I just can’t afford it.”

My first thought?  Pity.  When someone says, “I can’t afford it,” about anything, your heart goes out to them, right?  It’s the ultimate out.

But I had a theory, and I decided to test it out.

“NAMELESS PERSON,” I said, “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure, Ken.”

“Have you seen a movie in the last month?”

“Well, yes, I have.”

“Have you seen more than one movie in the last month?”

“I’ve seen two.”

“Ahhh, I see.  But you can’t afford the theater, right?  You just spent at least $25 on movie tickets.  You know about TDF, right?  You know about 20at20, right, where you can see shows for $20?”

He didn’t answer.

I could have pressed on . . . “Did you have popcorn when you were at the movies?  Oh, and do you drink Starbucks?  Watch Netflix?”

But the point wasn’t to embarass him . . . the point was to demonstrate how the problem isn’t price.  The problem is value.

Here was a theater person, who was claiming that theater tickets were too expensive . . . who chose to go to the movies instead.  The movies were of a greater value to him.

And that’s our problem.

There are cheap ways to see theater.  Period.  And people who can’t find $20, $30, $50 or yes, even $120 to see a show don’t value the experience enough to work at finding that money.  (And please, don’t challenge me to say that you’re different and you really don’t have even $20 to see a show, because I will come to your house and do an audit on your life and find $20 somewhere, I promise.)

And if theater folks won’t work at finding those extra few bucks, how are we going to get ordinary folks to do it?

So the next time you find yourself saying “Theater tickets are too expensive,” stop yourself.  Man up and admit it.  Say, “I don’t find enough value in going to the theater.”

If we admit the problem, maybe we’ll come closer to a solution.

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It’s back. And it’s bigger than before.

For all of you out there that say theater is too expensive, this post is for you:  20at20 is back!

The twice-yearly $20 ticket promotion starts up again on September 8th, 6 days from today and runs for only 13 days.  This Fall, there are 26 Off-Broadway shows participating!  Woo-woo!

For details on the promotion, which is brought to you by The Off-Broadway Theater Alliance and a whole bunch of awesome partners, visit www.20at20.com.

Go see shows.  And no more complaining about cost, because there is some awesome stuff out there, from Fuerzabruta, Toxic Avenger, and yes, my partners would punch me if I didn’t also mention that my three shows are also participating.

Oh, and a little tip that not too many people know about.  Sometimes we get amazing $20 ticket offers from Broadway shows throughout the year.  So, when you visit 20at20.com to pick the shows you’re going to see this fall, make sure you sign up to the mailing list.  There were some very happy campers last year that got a couple of incredible surprises in their inbox that were so good, I can’t even talk about them.

Enjoy the savings and the shows!

Broadway does it, Off-Off Broadway does it, and now Off Broadway does it too.

For the first time in history, grosses for Off-Broadway shows in New York City were released to the public last week by The Off-Broadway Theater Alliance (the group formerly known as The Off-Broadway Brainstormers which sponsors the bi-annual 20at20 promotion).

And it’s about time, don’t you think?

As quoted in a Crain’s article about the release, 5.47 million tickets were sold for Off-Broadway shows during the 2007-2008 season, for a total of $173 million.

Those figures may seem tiny compared to our big brother, Broadway, but they ain’t so bad when compared to our cousins, the other “must-sees” in New York.  Last year, Off-Broadway shows were seen by 1.7 million more people than visited the Empire State Building, 1.2 million more than visited the Statue of Liberty, and 2 million more than Coney Island.

And all those audience members led to an economic footprint on NYC of $461 million.

Not so bad, huh?

For decades, Off-Broadway has been lying in the weeds, refusing to stand up and be counted, and therefore has been unable to demonstrate to the city, the state and to the public that we are an industry that deserves attention.  And with the incredible challenges facing the future of  Off-Broadway, the fact that we make such a multi-million dollar impact on the city has never been more important than today.

What has prevented these figures from being released before?

First, the movers-and-shakers of Off-Broadway are moving targets.  Many Off-Broadway producers come and go like tourists.  They come in to do a show, and then they take off if the show doesn’t work (and unfortunately, most don’t).  This transient nature of the Off-Broadway producer makes it difficult to galvanize the community for programs like gross reporting, promotions, etc.

Second, I’ve heard it said from some in our community that by withholding our data we’re safer from the unions and from the vendors who might come after us with bigger salaries and benefits in mind if they see multi-million dollar grosses.

To those scaredy cats, I say the following:

First, if you’re not willing to publish financial data on your industry, you’re not an industry, you’re a hobby.

Second, the unions have already found us, and in many cases they already see our grosses (several require it as part of their weekly remittance reports).

Third . . . frankly, I’d love for anyone take the above gross information and try and use it against the producing community.  I’d love to counter with the total amount of money that has been LOST over the last ten years on Off-Broadway shows.  My guess is that it’s close to 100 million dollars. And don’t even get me started on the recoupment to non-recoupment ratio!  (In truth, I think most of the unions actually get what’s going on Off-Broadway).

Ugh.  I could go on about the state of Off-Broadway for blog after blog, but that’s not what this blog is about.

This blog is about standing up and being proud of what the Off-Broadway community provides to the city, both culturally and financially.  Despite our significant challenges (and at times our significant dysfunction), we’re an important industry that is crucial to our city.

And it’s important that we find ways that this crucial contributor continues to feed the economy in greater and greater amounts (to be honest, I’m worried that it won’t, unless we all do something soon).

Special thanks to Attorney and General Manager, Peter Breger, one of the leaders of the Off-Broadway Theater Alliance, of which I’m proud to be a member.  Peter led the charge on this economic impact report.

If you’d like to be a member of the Off-Broadway Theater Alliance, you can!  All that is required is a desire to produce Off-Broadway and a willingness to pitch in and lend a hand.  We have open meetings once a month, and all are welcome.

Fore more information, visit www.offbroadwayalliance.com.

A potpourri of posts in one.

Here’s a quick rundown of some stuff I’ve been meaning to tell you:

  • Got a new musical in development?  Submit it to the NYMF (the festival where Altar Boyz was born).  Their Early Bird deadline is coming up on 2/2 (final deadline is 3/2).  Read more about it, including a quote from me about how it helped us, here.
    • If you have questions about the NYMF, head over to the Q&A/social at the Irish Rogue on Wed. 1/28 at 6 PM)
    • If you haven’t finished your show in time for the deadline, then go finish your show in time for the deadline.
  • Speaking of Early Birds, TRU has an Early Bird Special going on for their latest “Boot Camp” on 1/24.  The subject of this Camp?  Everyone’s favorite, and the question that I get most often:  “Raising Money for Theater: How, Who and When to Ask”
    •  If you want to go, make sure you say that you are
      a “FRIEND OF KEN” when you register, and they’ll give you the Member
      Rate, even if you’re not a member. 
    • Save more money by registering by 1/19. 
  • 20at20, the 2 week Off-Broadway promotion where you can get $20 tickets for over 20 shows is back from 1/26 – 2/8.
    • Oh, and if you need a recommendation on 1, 2 or 3 shows to see, lemme know. 🙂
  • Here’s the interview I did for RNN TV on the current economic crisis and how it is affecting my shows.  Parental Discretion Advised, as it also features Time Out NY critic Adam Feldman.
  • Here’s an article about the Ticket Summit panel I was on earlier this month.
  • And this one deserves repeating . . . If you haven’t finished your show in time for the NYMF deadline, or whatever deadline you’ve set, then go finish your show!  I’ll even let you stop reading the blog if you promise to finish your show. 🙂  Title of Show it, yo!

20at20 returns . . . with a vengeance.

Next week, 20at20, a project of The Off-Broadway Theatre Alliance, returns.

And this year, it’s bigger and better than ever.

There are a bunch more shows for you to see this Fall for only $20.  So check it out.  It’s only around for 2 weeks, starting 9/2 and ending 9/14.

What’s cool about the program is that it started as a simple idea.  And 2 years later it has generated more press for Off-Broadway than any other Off-Broadway promotion that I know of, and has generated more revenue than any other Off-Broadway promotion that I know of.

Ideas are easy.  Execution is what it’s about.

Your 2 challenges for the next week?

1)  See at least 1 show during 20at20.

2)  Take a simple idea and execute it.

When you finish challenge #2?

Do it again.