Who sees Broadway shows on the road anyway?

The annual Broadway League report that details the demographics and habits of the audience of Broadway shows around the country was released last week.

And, I’ve got the skinny.

Audiences at over twenty theaters from LA to Boston and several in between were asked a bunch of questions, and then the data was crunched and spit out for us to analyze, and use to our advantage as we develop and market product in the future.

And if we don’t use it, then it’s totally WITHOUT value.  Information that isn’t used, is like an unloaded weapon in the middle of a war; it makes you looks like you know what you’re doing, but at the first sign of trouble, you’re dead meat.

Now that I’ve shot off that depressing simile, here are the highlights from the Executive Summary of the report.

Ready?

  • In the 2009-2010 season, there were nearly 16 million attendances to Broadway touring shows across North America.
  • Seventy-two percent of attendees were female.
  • The average age of the Touring Broadway theatregoer was 53.8 years old.
  • The vast majority of theatregoers were Caucasian.
  • Seventy-four percent of the audience held a college degree and 31% held a graduate degree.
  • Forty-six percent of national theatregoers reported an annual household income of more than $100,000, compared to only 20% of Americans overall.
  • Thirty-six percent of respondents were subscribers to the “Broadway Series” at their local venue.
  • On average, Touring Broadway attendees saw 4.4 shows per year.
  • Women continued to be more likely than men to make the decision to purchase tickets to the show.
  • Nearly two-thirds of audiences looked to the theatre’s website to find information about the show.
  • Other than being included in the subscription, personal recommendation was the most influential source for show selection.
  • The Tony Awards® were also reported to be more influential this season than in previous seasons. Eighteen percent of respondents said that Tony Awards® or nominations were a reason they attended the show, compared to 14% in the 2007-2008 and 8% in the 2005-2006 season. Furthermore, 8% responded that seeing a scene of the show on the Tony® telecast encouraged them to attend the show, compared to 4% in previous years.
  • Advertising was less influential than it had been in the past, but noted forms were print ads, television commercials, and internet ads.
  • Thirty-five percent of Touring Broadway theatregoers used the Internet to purchase their tickets, up from 26% in the 2008-2009 season.
  • Advance sales to single-ticket buyers has increased in comparison to the past several years.
  • Most Touring Broadway theatregoers attended in small groups of family or friends.
  • Sixty-two percent of the audience said that some kind of incentive (discounts for restaurants, parking and transportation, free merchandise, backstage tours, or complete packages) would encourage them to attend theatre more frequently.
  • Facebook was the most widely used social networking site.
  • The vast majority of Touring Broadway theatregoers arrived at the venue by personal car.
  • Besides theatre, moviegoing was by far the most popular leisure activity.
  • Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they made a visit to New York City in the past year.
  • Seventy-one percent of respondents said that different performance times would not make a difference in encouraging them to attend Touring Broadway more frequently.
  • Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they would prefer to receive theatre information electronically, rather than via postal mail.

The complete report is over 60 pages and can be ordered here.

 

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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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Another study on Broadway performance schedules. Results revealed.

As a follow-up to their recent report on the Broadway audience’s preference for certain performance times, Telecharge dug a bit deeper and did another study to determine “whether there was a consumer preference for matinees on Wednesday, for 7 PM curtains on weekdays, and 2 PM curtains on Saturdays.”

I was going to summarize the results for you, but frankly, the report is so fascinating that I’m printing it verbatim, with a huge hat tip to Telecharge for sharing their results with the community.

It’s info like this that will help us break through the ceiling that we’ve been hitting our heads on over the last few years.

Here is what Telecharge found out:

SUMMARY

  • Wednesday is not necessarily the preferred day for a weekday matinee. Nearly 80% said they would see a matinee on another weekday other than Wednesday.  Friday was the day selected by most of those expressing a preference.
  • The majority of respondents would prefer more weekday curtains to be at 7PM and would be more inclined to go on another night if the show was at 7PM.
  • While most customers prefer the 2PM curtain time on Saturdays, when offered a range of times, nearly one third preferred a later time.

DETAILED RESULTS

7PM Curtain Time

  • When asked whether curtain time was a factor in the choice of the day of the week on which you saw a Broadway show, 52% said yes, 48% no.
  • 72% would be more inclined to see a show on another day of the week at 7PM.
  • 69% would prefer if there were more days of the week when shows performed at 7PM.
  • 36% would prefer 7PM shows on Thursday
    • 21% prefer Monday
    • 16% prefer Wednesday
    • 13% prefer Friday
    • 14.5% prefer Saturday
    • 10% skipped the question (No other question saw as many customers skip answering.)
  • 53% care when the show ends, 47% care when it starts
  • 67% want to eat before the show, 20% after
  • 56% choose performance based on seat location, 39% on price, 5% on performance time.
  • 42% of respondents were not from NY or NJ.
  • 26.5% of respondents work in NYC, twice as many as the other groups.

Wednesday Matinee

  • 69% said Wednesday would NOT be their first choice for a daytime matinee performance.
  • 79% would see a matinee on another weekday other than Wednesday.
  • 50.5% said the day of the week did not matter
    • 37% prefer Friday
    • 7% prefer Thursday
    • 3.5% prefer Tuesday
  • 59% said 2PM is their preferred time
    • 19% prefer 1 PM
    • 4.5% prefer 12 noon
    • 17% prefer 3PM
  • 59% care when the show starts, 41% care when it ends
  • 39% want to eat before the show, 55% after
  • 36% of the respondents were not from NY or NJ.
  • 14% work in NYC

Saturday Matinee

  • 72.5% said 2PM was their preferred time for a matinee.  16% had no preference, 12% said they wanted a different time.
  • 49% said a different time would not work better, 34% had no preference, 17% wanted a different time.
  • 56% preferred a 2PM matinee
    • 31% prefer a later time (2:30PM, 3PM or 3:30PM)
    • 13% prefer an earlier time (1PM or 12 noon)
  • 55% care when the show starts, 45% care when it ends
  • 56% prefer to eat dinner after the show, 39% eat lunch before
  • 44% of the respondents were not from NY or NJ.
  • 13% work in NYC

Observations

A majority of customers who saw 7PM shows are more concerned about when a show ends, while a significant majority of Wednesday matinee customers (and a smaller majority of Saturday matinee customers) care what time the show starts. Most matinee customers want to eat after the show, while a majority of the 7PM customers want to eat before. This means that some shorter shows could start their Saturday matinees later depending on the audience they attract but probably not a weekday matinee.

The strong preference for the 7PM curtain, the predilection for eating before, coupled with the focus on what time the show ends could tell us that 8PM curtains may work for short shows but not long ones. Maybe customers want to see three-hour shows at 7PM, but would still be interested in seeing 90-minute shows at 8PM.

7PM Curtain Time

Half of respondents said that curtain time was a factor in their past purchase decision, but we also wanted to know if they would be more inclined to go on another night — if it was at 7PM — in the future.

We assume that people who attend on a Tuesday night know that 7PM curtains are not the norm for Broadway, or that they have chosen that day specifically for the 7PM curtain time. But do ticket buyers know that Tuesday curtains are at 7PM? Outside the Broadway community and regular Manhattan theatre goers (remember that Manhattanites preferred a Thursday curtain), this might not be the case at all. If half of respondents said curtain time was not a factor in their decision, was it because they did not know that the show was at 7PM and not at 8PM when making their purchase?

We see lots of evidence customers do not have the level of information we think or hope they have. How many people in the industry knew Finian’s Rainbow had preview pricing, lower prices on Wednesday evenings, and 7PM curtains Tuesday-Thursday? The answer is not everyone. If we didn’t know, why would we think that customers did? Once a customer has attended a show at 7PM, maybe they would prefer it (as many Tony voters do) and would like to see more 7PM curtain times.

Wednesday Matinee

Among customers who expressed a preference (50%), the strongest preference was for Friday matinees (37%).

Most customers said that Wednesday is not their first choice for a matinee. A substantial number reported they would see a matinee performance on another day of the week, but when we asked which day, the answers varied (and 50% had no preference). There does not appear to be any special significance to matinees on a Wednesday, and customers would be willing to go on another day of the week. If some shows want to experiment with matinees on another day, they will probably not lose sales if they allow enough time to sell the performance in advance, and they might pick up additional business if they choose a day when there are more tourists in the city.

While respondents expressed the strongest preference for Friday among weekday matinees, there are issues to consider. Aside from the challenge of back-to-back days with two performances, school groups and bus tour operators may not find this day of the week appealing. When asked, some bus companies said they would not want their buses attempting to leave the city at 5PM on a Friday, nor will all schools want their kids in the city that late on a Friday. Many shows that perform on Sunday night sell a significant percentage of their tickets between Friday and Sunday; therefore, swapping Sunday evening for Friday matinee has risk. Changing the weekday matinee from Wednesday to Friday — if you do not rely on school groups or bus companies — may be a strategy to consider for shows looking to improve sales on their weekday matinee.

Saturday Matinee

73% of respondents initially said 2PM was their preferred time for a Saturday matinee, but when asked if another time would work better, only 49% said a different time would not work better. When given a choice of times, 56% stayed with 2PM, and others split between earlier and later curtain times. The answers are similar to those for time for Wednesday matinees. This suggests a small degree of ambiguity on the optimal time for a matinee, whereas the answers on day of the week for a weekday matinee were more definitive.

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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