Serials are killers.

First of all, a little back story . . .

I don’t really watch television anymore.  I’ve missed out on so many great shows over the years, that I’m catching up, series by series, and watching at my own pace.

Translation?  I just started Season 3 of 24.

If you’re a 24 fan (and I have to admit, I’m semi-obsessed, having changed my ringtone to the CTU ringtone, and I’ve be known to greet callers with, “This is Bauer”), then you know that each episode ends on a super-duper sometimes melodramatic cliffhanger.

The goal of the cliffhangers are twofold:

  • Get you to tune in next week (or in my case, just play the next episode on my Netflix/Wii Play Instantly).
  • Get you to talk about it “at the water cooler” the next morning.

Great television “serials” can do just that.

So why can’t we do serials in the theater?

I’ve seen several mini-attempts over the years, mostly Off-Broadway, or Off-Off-Broadway.  There have been a few different live soap operas, and there’s even a live Sex-and-the-City-ish serial sitcom running right now that’s been getting a bit of buzz, called Naked In A Fishbowl.

The reasons why the serial has never stuck are pretty obvious:

  • It’s hard enough getting people off their couches and in an uncomfortable theater seat once a month, never mind every week.
  • Our tickets are much more expensive than Free TV or even Netflix/Will Play Instantly, so serial theatergoing would become an expensive habit.
  • Rehearsal costs of a new show every week would eat away at any potential profit in a theater with a fixed number of seats.
  • If an audience member misses one episode, you are never getting them back.

All of these reasons, and a zillion more, are why they don’t work in the theater (Even the ladies in Fishbowl are taping each episode, so they’ve obviously got their sights set on another medium).

Then again, I would’ve bet that a 12-hour staged adaptation of a Dostoyevsky novel wouldn’t work either, and somehow Demons sold out all of their performances.

There’s an audience for everything, but whether it is sustainable is another story.

And we’ve yet to see that story succeed in the theater.

And yes, that’s a challenge.

More performance time research revealed.

Telecharge released a third installment of their report on Broadway performance times recently, once again challenging us all to thoroughly examine our perf schedule and ask, “Do we have the best performance times for our customers or are we just going along with tradition?”

This report concentrated solely on Out-Of-Town buyers (tourists) and Suburbanites, since those two groups account from more than 80% of our sales.

Here are a few bullet points from the in-depth analysis:

  • Monday night has the highest percentage of out-of-towners, but Thursday has 3x as many out-of-town sales as Monday.
  • Wednesday evening is typically the weakest-selling performance, but twice as many out-of-towners bought tickets for a Wednesday evening as a Monday evening.
  • Unlike out-of-town buyers, suburban buyers show a significant preference for matinee performances.
  • Sunday and Monday evenings are the two weakest performances for sales to tourists but they have a high percentage of sales from them: 52% and 54%, comparable to Friday and Saturday night.  These performances depend more on tourists than other performances.
  • The peak performances for out-of-town buyers fall between Thursday and Sunday afternoon.
  • Thursday is a stronger performance with out-of-town buyers than Sunday matinee or Wednesday night.

What does all the data in these three reports tell us?  Should we have 7 PM performances on other nights besides Tuesday?  Should we have Thursday and/or Friday matinees?  If tourists are here between Thursday and Sunday, what about a Friday at 5 (like our friends in London)?  What about 9 PMs on Saturday?

These reports don’t have all the answers.  As a therapist once told me . . . “We don’t have all the answers, we just know what questions to ask.”

These fantastic reports challenge us all to ask our own questions about our own specific shows.  Don’t follow tradition for tradition’s sake (unless, of course, you’re doing Fiddler).  Use the stats, study your audience, and shake up your times until you find what works best.

Special thanks to The Shuberts and Telecharge for releasing this info.  (To read the summaries of the previous reports click here and here.)

Let’s hope for more of these in the future.

Or you know what would be really cool?  A Telecharge ticketing blog!

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What do great Chefs and great Producers have in common?

Successful chefs and successful Producers have one thing in common.

In the old days, I’d say that they both wore big hats.

Nowadays, it’s as simple as this:

They both have to have great taste.

There are all different kinds of chefs in the world.  Some chefs cook to their own taste, ignoring those that they’re serving.  They may not be very “successful,” but they may be fulfilled nonetheless.

Some chefs cook only the way their diners enjoy, at times serving dishes that they wouldn’t eat themselves in order to guarantee their survival and their “success.”

As a Producer, you have to decide what type of chef you’re going to be.  Do you want to force-feed people a menu that suits only your own taste buds?  Do you want to serve the lowest-common denominator dishes, but serve a ton of it?

Or do you want to be one of the masters, who can find the balance between the two?

Do you want to be the kind that both satisfies and challenges both yours and your customers’ taste buds?

If you can pull that off, you can wear whatever kind of hat you want.

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