Where the @$&# is Broadway anyway?

If you asked a NYer where Broadway was, they’d probably point you to the street that runs the length of Manhattan.

If you said, “No, where’s the Broadway they talk about in books,” they’d probably look at you funny,  maybe point you to Times Square and say that’s where most of the theaters are.

They’d have to explain that Broadway doesn’t have an exact physical destination.

Which is why I think it’s time we give it one.

I did something I’ve always wanted to do this weekend and made the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, two tourist destinations that do a very good job of telling you exactly where you are and making a tourist attraction out of it.

How do they do it?  The old-fasioned way.  With a sign.

The Hollywood sign is one of the most famous landmarks in the LA area.  It screams from the hills that you have entered the land of the silver screen.  It even has a website!  And on that website the sign is described by Hugh Hefner as “not simply a sign but a symbol of inspiration.”

In Vegas, when you’re driving down the strip towards the man-made mecca in the desert, you are first greeted by the infamous Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas sign which was put up in 1959.  It even has a Wikipedia entry!  And more importantly it has a place where you can stop your car, get out, and have your picture taken next to it.

On Broadway . . . we’ve got . . . eh . . . uh . . . huh.

We don’t seem to have a symbol or sign that we’ve entered the theatrical capital of the world.  Sure there are street signs that say Broadway, and there’s the statue of George M. Cohan in Duffy Square, and maybe even the Red Steps and the TKTS booth (but I’m not sure we want a discount destination representing where Broadway begins).  But nothing that says, “Broadway is here!”

So if we don’t have one, maybe we should make one. Maybe it’s a marquis that sits in Times Square.  Or a lit sign on 42nd St.  Or maybe the sign is written in the sidewalks (which reminds me of this blog I wrote about our own Walk of Fame).

Is this cheap?  Or even practical?  Probably not.

But I guarantee that we’d have a ton of tourists taking their pictures in front of it, and it might even inspire a few more to actually take in a show while they are in town.

And maybe, if we’re lucky, it would even have its own Wikipedia page.

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At The Booth app is now available for the Blackberry!

At The Booth, the app that tells you what’s available at the TKTS booth, hit the platform trifecta today!

Not only do we have an iPhone version and a Droid version, I’m thrilled to announce that the app is available for The Blackberry starting today!

And the Blackberry app features the same features as the iPhone version, which includes complete info on all Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, links to reviews, photos and more!

Blackberry users, go to your app store, and download that sucker . . . and then use it to see more theater!

Download it today!

(Oh, BTW, one of the reasons that the Blackberry version took so long to release is that we had to configure it for the many different models of the Blackberry that are in the market.  We’ve tested it on most, but if for any reason, yours doesn’t work properly, drop info@atthebooth.com a note and we’ll rectify it.)

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The LA Seminar is SOLD OUT!

But the social still have some room!  If you’re in LA and you love the theater, come to the social THIS SATURDAY NIGHT!  Click here for more details.

The next NYC seminar is on March 19th. Save $55 if you register by 1/31/11.

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Do audiences care if a Broadway show is in previews? Survey says . . .

Oh Spidey . . . you just can’t keep your name out of the papers.

And, based on the 1.8 million bucks you did over Christmas week, I bet you’re starting not to care.

The latest bit of publicity about the uber-musical hit the wires late last week when Bill de Blasio, a NYC public advocate, sent a letter to the Department of Consumer Affairs stating that Spidey was in violation of the law, due to its extended preview period, and their alleged failure to disclose this information to ticket buyers.

While part of me believes Mr. de Blasio is looking to catch a ride on the Spider-Man publicity train in order to further his own political ambitions, this is not the first time this argument has been made (anyone remember Nick and Nora?).

This bit of news started an internal debate between the two sides of my mind.  Do we have to do more to distinguish between opening and previews?  Should we charge less?  And then came the big question . . . do consumers really care?

I formulated my own opinion (surprise, surprise) and then realized that if I really wanted to find out if consumers cared, I needed to talk to consumers!

So, I sent my trusty weekend intern Jason out into the cold to chat with folks in the TKTS line and find out!

We asked 100 US residents if knowing that a show was in previews made them more inclined to see it, less inclined to see it, or if it made no difference at all.

Ready to see the results?

Not so fast.  Before I reveal to you what they thought . . . what do you THINK they thought?  Come on, imagine this is The Price is Right and you have to guess before you see how much that box of Wheaties actually costs.

What percentage was more inclined?  Less inclined?  And what percentage didn’t give a flying superhero.

Here are the results:

12% were MORE inclined to see a show in previews.
18% were LESS inclined to see a show in previews.
70% didn’t care either way.

Surprising? Not to me.

Now, as with any survey, you have to take into account the group sampled (and the size of that group).  A TKTS audience may be only in town for a short period of time, and have a totally different criteria for making that choice.  A NYC resident theatergoer may want to wait until a show is fully cooked before taking a bite.  Admittedly this was a down-and-dirty survey.

But it still says something.

The audience just wants in.

However, the bigger challenge for the Producer is that if your show is a bit “rare” during previews, you should be more concerned about what the audience is saying on the way out of the theater.  Because if they don’t care that the show is in previews, then they’re not going to cut you any slack for it either.  For them, it’s just there . . . so you better be prepared to give them the goods.

We love talking to the folks on line at the TKTS booth.  Wanna see what we’ve asked them in the past?

– Read the results of our survey of WHO is actually standing in that line here.

– Read the results of our “When I say Broadway, you say . . . ” survey here.

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Upcoming Get Your Show Off The Ground Seminars

CHICAGO – Saturday, January 15th.  Register today..  ONLY 1 SPOT LEFT.

LA – Saturday, January 29th.  Register today.  ONLY 3 SPOTS LEFT.

NYC – Saturday, March 19th.  Save $55 if you register by 1/31.  Register today.

For more info on the seminars, click here.


Have you seen where the decisions are made?

There is a reason why Generals and Presidents visit the front lines, and it’s for more than just morale.  They visit so they can understand the conditions that face the troops.  The smart Generals, and the smart Presidents, learn a lot in those secret-until-the-last-minute-and-then-highly-publicized visits.  And they take that info home and develop new strategies to make their efforts more efficient.

Have you visited your front lines lately?

In NYC, Broadway tickets are distributed in a lot more areas than you think, and it’s important for Producers to take a tour of all the locations where their “birds” (street for ‘tickets”) are hawked.

What will you learn?

You’ll hear conversations from potential ticket buyers, as well as how the people peddling the tickets are pitching your shows.  You’ll see what advertising options are available, and what is influencing the buyer’s decision at that moment.  And I’m sure you’ll take that info home and figure out how to increase your presence in those areas to insure that you increase your sales.

Here are five spots that you should check out on your next rounds:

1.  Your Box Office


2.  The TKTS Booth

I don’t care if you’re “at the booth” or not, you should spend a lot of time here.  The TKTS booth has the gravitational pull of the sun to theater lovers.  Rich, poor, it doesn’t matter. They flock to the booth.  I’ve learned more about what makes a consumer tick by standing in that line than I have in ten years behind a desk.

3.  Hotel Concierges

Full-price sales are the key to financial success on Broadway (which is why there’s a lot of lobbying going on to get the TKTS booth to sell FP tickets as well – and why shouldn’t they?).  Hotel concierges, most of whom work with a respected ticket agency like Americana, sell full price tickets (plus a markup).  So, doesn’t it make sense that you should see what’s happening at these desks that dot hotel lobbies around the city?  Just a poster up in their shop is a serious impression.

4.  The Times Square Information Center

Nestled in right next to the Palace Theatre, sits the Times Square Alliance’s Information Center, which has some cool museum-like artifacts of the old Times Square (check out the real live Peep Booths), a souvenir shop, and is also home to the Broadway League’s “Broadway Concierge & Ticket Center”.  In addition to tickets, the Ticket Center reps will talk restaurants and recommendations . . . and will do so in six languages.  And they even wear a uniform of all black that make us look like the 1st class industry we are (can someone explain to me why the TKTS ticket sellers aren’t required to where a TKTS shirt, a shirt and tie, or a See A Broadway Show t-shirt?  (Shoot, I know shows that would pay for those sellers to wear logo tees.  Ok, that’s pushing it, because TDF is a non-profit that can’t show individual show allegiance, but you get the point.)

Even though the Info Center is hard to find, there is a lot buying going on in there, so check it out.

They’ve even got a mini-stage, which made me wonder why we’re not doing live performances there a few times a week, and pulling people off the street to hear, oh, I don’t know, the lead from Mamma Mia! doing “Winner Takes It All”, etc.  Done at key times during the weekend, I bet it would get people into the center, and sell tickets.

5.  Sandwich Board Central

Out in front of the Marquis Theater, in the new pedestrian walkway, is a section of the city I call Sandwich Board Central.  Every Producer I know hates sandwich boards, until they see that they actually sell tickets.  I know what you’re saying, you’d never buy tickets from a guy passing out a flyer, but a lot of people do.  They only way to figure out why is to hang out in SBC for a while and listen.  It’s a specific type of buyer . . . and maybe you can learn how to get more of them . . . or better . . . maybe you can learn how to turn them into a buyer who gets their tickets before they see a sandwich board.

6.  Scalper Way

Up closer to the TKTS booth, you’ll find a bunch of folks, half of them looking homeless, screaming their lungs out, with a fan of tickets in their hand, trying to get rid of every show you can imagine, at every price you can imagine.  What they lack in teeth, they make up for in the old fashioned hard-sell.  And you know what’s amazing?  People actually buy tickets from them!!!  And that’s what I find interesting.  You can learn more from your enemies than you can from your friends.  So I do.

Purchasing a $135 ticket, or even a $50 ticket, doesn’t happen as easily as you might think.  There’s a lot of back and forth, and a lot more people wriggle off your hook than you think.

Paying a visit to the places where decisions are made can help you learn about the factors that go into these big decisions, and will allow you to make better decisions in how you bait your hook in the future.



3 More Things I Learned While in London.

If you follow me on twitter, you know that I spent the weekend in the UK, taking in some new shows and some bland food (seriously, I love London. I don’t have to feel guilty for eating fast food, because I know I’m not missing much).

As is usually the case whenever I visit Broadway’s Step Brother, aka The West End, I walked away with a few observations about our similarities and our differences.

Here’s what I discovered this trip:

1.  The ushers in the UK are all young.

The average age of the ushers, ticket takers, and bar staff at every theatre I went to had to be about 23.  And each one of them was bubbling over with excitement and passion for the show that I was about to see.  They weren’t showing me to my seat.  They were priming me for an experience.  I’ve always thought that these positions were ideal for students of the theater . . . and even more ideal for the audience.  NYU should start a work study program with Local 306 (the ushers union).

2.  What time is the show again?

It was a light theater going trip for me this time ’round. I only saw four shows in the three days I was there.  And not one of those shows was at 8 PM.  I saw shows at 7:15, 3, 9:30 and 7:30. And I almost went to a Friday at 5.  While I was constantly checking and re-checking the curtain times all weekend because I had no idea which show started when, the alternative start times allowed me to see more theater in a shorter time.  I still wonder if a Friday at 5, during key tourist times here in the States, would work.  I’m dying to try it.  And someday I will.  Or maybe you’ll beat me to it.

3.  Times Square looks more and more like Leicester Square every year.

Everyone knows that Bloomberg has had a man-crush on the Mayor of London for years.  So many of the changes we’ve seen here seem to be inspired by successful policies there.  The AirTrain and the Heathrow Express Train, Congestion Pricing to reduce traffic (which never passed here), and now, the pedestrian walkways where streets used to be.  Heck, they even have people selling tickets to comedy shows in Leicester Square!  I’m all for it.  Leicester Square is a pretty exciting and safe place to be, drawing more crowds than ever.  If we can continue to create a more conducive environment for visitors to spend time in Times Square, just steps away from our theaters and the TKTS booth, our metaphorical boats will all have to rise.  It’s what I call The Times Square Tide.

And here’s a bonus!

4.  They drive on the ‘wrong’ bloody side of the road.

At every major crosswalk, an instruction is written on the pavement:  LOOK RIGHT or LOOK LEFT.  Why?  I can only assume its because people like me, who naturally look in one direction before crossing the street, need to be retrained to look the exact opposite direction if they want to avoid getting run over by a truck.

What does that have to do with theater?

If you’ve got a show that is working in the US, you might naturally think that the next stop is the UK.  Well, just because the folks there speak the same language (sort-of), doesn’t mean that their taste in the theater is the same.  In fact, it may be the exact opposite.  They literally may come at things from a totally different direction.

So before you cross the pond, make sure you stop, and look RIGHT instead of left . . . so you’re not hit by any oncoming traffic just waiting for you to step out into the street.

Because health insurance may be free in London, but producer insurance is not.

To read some of my past observations about London theatergoing, click here and here.