5 Takeaways from the LA Seminar.

Ok, ok, I’ll admit it.  I planned this Saturday’s LA Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar to take place in January partly because I wanted a break from this Godzilla of a winter we’re having, and partly because I had a craving for In ‘N Out Burger.

Well, I’m happy to report that the weather was a sunny seventy-something degrees on Saturday, and In ‘N Out Burger still has the best burger/fries/shake combo on the planet.

And better yet, I’m also happy to report that LA has some of the most passionate theater people I’ve met . . . anywhere.

We had a great session (and a great social later that evening).  Here are five of the takeaways that got tossed around:

  • Test your titles, because what makes sense to you might not make sense to your audience.
  • The rule of two:  sometimes it’s easier to raise twice as much money, and sometimes it’s easier to raise money for two projects instead of just one.
  • Diversify your development.  Spend half your time working on adaptations and half your time working on original material.
  • Critics from other cities don’t like to be told that a show is a hit before it arrives.
  • Theater people face similar issues, no matter where they may call home.

This last one is what really got me.  Before the LA seminar, and before the Chicago seminar, I remember thinking, “How will this be different from the seminars in NYC?”

And for the most part . . . they weren’t.  The same issues that pop up in The City, popped up in every city: how do I raise money for my show, how do I market my show with no money, and how do I get started?

So next time you talk to someone from another theater world, don’t think that they’re that different.  Because they’ve got the same hopes, dreams, and obstacles as you. And maybe you can figure out how to get over them together.

We sure did.

Thanks, LA, for warming my body temp, filling me with sodium and trans fats, and for introducing me to some awesome people.

I’m sure I’ll do it again soon.

And thus ends the great January Get Your Show Off The Ground tour.  Don’t forget, there’s one coming up in NYC on March 19th, and if you register by EOD today, you’ll save $55.  Click here to sign up today.

The next city where the seminar may go will be London.  Taking the temperature now, so if you’re a Brit and are interested, email me and we’ll go from there.

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Enter to win this Sunday’s Giveaway: 2 Tickets to Catch Me If You Can!  Click here.

Favorite Quotes Volume XVII: The buck stops. Period.

There are a number of great quotes in this Variety article about how Broadway Producers will go about building productions both physically and creatively during the economic mudslide we’re in, but my favorite is from Legally Blonde and Catch Me If You Can Producer Hal Luftig.

Hal also produced Thoroughly Modern Millie (which I company managed), and with his partners, staged one heck of a comeback to win the Tony Award for Best Musical, despite a poor NY Times review that had us all worried that the toe-tapper wouldn’t last the summer.
When discussing how he was keeping a tighter rein on the economics from day one, Hal had this to say to possible critics of his current policies:

“Inexpensive doesn’t mean cheap.”

Hal is right.

It’s easy to be cheap.  And it’s lazy to be lavish.
But finding a way of doing something of the same value for a lesser price is an art.  And in this climate, it’s a necessity.

Non profits can do it. Why can’t we?

I’m not talking about not paying taxes.  I’m talking about subscriptions.

Could a commercial theater subscription exist?

One of the principal elements of a strong financial foundation for a not-for-profit theater is selling a season of shows through a “subscription”.  Buy 6 shows for 1 low price, but you have to do it now!  Touring “road houses” do the same.  You get cash in the bank, before you need to spend it (unless your ticketing company holds on to it), and a reassurance that a good chunk of your seats will be sold.

Broadway theaters don’t cycle several shows through its theaters per year (hopefully), so the subscription model doesn’t make sense.

But could it?

Most tri-state area musical buyers are multi-musical buyers, meaning that they see more than one show a year.  Could we sell them on three shows in advance IF the shows were happening at different times of the year?  (Subscriptions work because the time commitment is spread out – it’s not three shows in a 6 week period.)  Could the Producer of Addams Family get together with the Producer of Catch Me If You Can and the Producer of Ever After and do a mailing over the summer with an offer for all three (the customers would need a great incentive to purchase all three – great seats is one)?

Is splitting the cost of the mailer the only upside for the Producers?  What about connecting with other brands?  “See The New Shows On Broadway!”  Is it a League sponsored initiative for all the new plays or all the new musicals?  Could there be a League subscription?  “Pick 5 shows a year for $250!”

To tell you the truth, I don’t know if it would be worth it.  It would be a heck of a lot of work and more importantly it would depend on a lot of cooperation, which might as well be a four letter word in this industry.

But in this economy, that’s a word we all need to get comfortable with, or we’re all going to be four-letter-word-ed.

Do you think there is a way to make this work?

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