Should the critics have reviewed Spiderman?

I don’t know about what happened at your home, but as soon as that first review of Spider-Man hit the ‘web’ Monday night, my phone started ringing, my twitter started tweeting, and things I didn’t even know I owned started buzzing.

It was a social media cyclone.

And unfortunately for Spider-Man, that cyclone did some serious damage.

But the big question on everyone’s tweets was not how a $65 million dollar musical got such bad reviews, but should the critics have thrown their stones now, or should they have waited?

There has always been a gentleman’s agreement in the theater that reviewers don’t come until they are invited.  And that agreement has held up over the years, except for a few instances, mostly involving high profile out-of-town productions.

But not this time.

Why?

Well, come on Spider-Man, you’ve got super-human powers.  Surely, you had to see this coming.  You’ve been in previews longer than it takes an actual spider to spin a web.  Did you expect them to wait much longer?  Especially with rumors circulating that you were never going to open, and especially since the business you were doing didn’t seem to incentivize you to open any sooner.  When you’re doing 1.2+ million, who cares if you’re open or not, right?

Well, the critics do.

And Monday, they had enough.

And I can’t blame them.

I give them a lot of credit, actually.  Instead of just a free-for-all of reviews starting to come out randomly, they obviously got together and orchestrated this release together.  It was a calculated strike (which is the kind that does the most damage).  And the reviews came the day after the show was last supposed to open, which is a logical, rational, and defensible date to use.

So, good for them.

If I was a Producer, I might not like it, but I had to expect it (and evident by the typical post-opening radio spots and other media that ran this morning, these Producers did expect it).

All that said, you know what the real question I was asking after I read the reviews?

It wasn’t how a $65 million dollar musical could get such bad reviews.

It wasn’t whether or not they should have been reviewed it or not.

It was, “Will the reviews matter?”

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The shortest distance between advertising and a purchase is a straight line.

I heard a great radio spot for Wicked on WPLJ the other day.  It had a Valentine’s Day theme, so it was fresh and timely.  It featured a climactic and dramatic piece of music that emphasized the story.  And it left me wanting more.  It was easy to see why someone would be inclined to buy tickets after hearing it.

But where would they buy tickets?

The call-to-action at the end of the commercial was something like this:

“For tickets, visit Ticketmaster.com!”

If I was a 1980s robot, this is where I’d say, “Beep-boo-bop-bleep.  Does not compute.  Does not compute.  Beep-boo-bleep!”

Why would we send someone to Ticketmaster, a Walmart style ticketing department store, when we could send them straight to WickedTheMusical.com?  I’ll tell you why. Because Ticketmaster makes us.

Does not compute!

Here’s the problem with the flow.

– Customer hears Wicked commercial.

– Customer goes to Ticketmaster.

– Customer then sees the home page of Ticketmaster, which looks like this and promotes everything from Katy Perry to the NBA to the Circus.  In other words, it has a lot of distractions, so your risk of losing the customer increases.

But it’s not over yet.

– Customer then has to search for Wicked by typing it into the search box or clicking around.  The risk of losing the customer increases yet again, and there is room for error, frustration, and bears oh my.

– If a customer does type in Wicked, this is what the search results show . . . and it’s like a scavenger hunt to find the date and CITY that you want (because I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the show is quite the hit).  You guessed it . . . risk increases again, and your conversion rate has now dropped by a pretty healty percent, I would imagine.

Now imagine this . . .

“Buy Tickets at WickedTheMusical.com”

– Customer goes to Wicked‘s main site, and Wicked is able to get the customer more on the hook with images, music (perhaps the same as is heard in the commercial) etc., instead of risk losing that lead to any of the other events on the TM home page.  More hooked, rather than less.  Sounds good to me.

– There is a simple and easy to read Buy Tickets button on the home page.  See for yourself.

– And when the customer clicks on Broadway, for example, this is what they see . . . a straight through shot to exactly what they want.

Less clicks, less confusion and most importantly, Wicked‘s conversion rates increase . . . because you’ve gotten the customer to the cash register faster, which we know is more important than ever in the 2010s, which I’ve termed The Era of Distraction.

Why does Ticketmaster want the customer to go through their site?  Got me . . .

– They are not losing any money, because Wicked still ports the customer through to their site, so the full  service fees remain intact.

– Ditto with the data.  They still capture it all.

– The conversation rates for the advertising should increase, which should actually earn them more money.

– And, their customer’s experience is cleaner.

I guess they lose a bit of branding?  But really?  Is that worth more than the above?  I don’t think so.  And besides, isn’t it time they start realized that it’s the shows people want to see, not the ticketing sites.

The best e-commerce solutions I’ve seen are when there doesn’t seem to be e-commerce at all.  It’s . . . well . . . seamless.  We seem to be doing the opposite and actually calling attention to the fact that the customer is spending money.

Does not compute.

We’re sending people around the bend to get our product. It’s like driving a mile out of the way to get a gallon of milk, when you’ve got a store right next door that sells it for the exact same price.

And not only does this not compute, but it makes me say, “What the bleep?”

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Enter to win this Sunday’s Giveaway: 2 tickets to see Pippin star Ben Vereen! Click here!

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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