The new Classic Theatre of San Antonio is promoting its third season with a colorful brochure proclaiming “battle of the SEXES – the battle rages on 2010-11” for a season that includes classic plays that deal with male-female rocky relationships. The brochure was sent to thousands of patrons and has been distributed publicly at gatherings of theatre-goers and others interested in the arts.
Following the lead of some other theatres in San Antonio, namely the San Pedro Playhouse and the Company Theatre, the Classic Theatre is offering a hefty discount for this new “sexy” season: 4 tickets for the price of 3 (only $60 for 4 general admission tickets). This promotion brought in about 90 subscriptions, a substantial increase over the previous season’s 20, but still not many for a potential audience of more than 2,000 per show.
Last weekend the theatre offered a Groupon promotion of those same 4 tickets for ½ price: $30 – which works out to $7.50 per ticket, cheaper than a movie ticket! The show offerings are the same: Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward, The Lion in Winter by James Goldman, and Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. Twilight these are not.
Yet 315 buyers took advantage of the opportunity to buy theatre tickets at a deep discount. A handful of them are repeat patrons – but not more 15. So the other 300 are new audience members, unaffected by the colorful brochure, not tempted by the well-publicized sexy theme, unknown to the theatre staff, who suddenly are clamoring to see Shakespeare, Ibsen, et al.
Is it the Internet and the ease of shopping online? Is it the deep discount? Is it the fact that Groupon reaches many more thousands of potential audience than reached by our concerted effort via direct mail, newspapers, radio, video on cable TV, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Constant Contact and personal contact?
Our job in the theatre is to fill the seats and those of us who have been working in the theatre a long time have gone through the “Subscribe Now!” period to the “Constant Contact” culture in our efforts to do just that. The internet is now deluged with daily deals, like Groupon’s, and the successful result for the Classic is 300 new season subscriptions BOUGHT. Will these purchasers actually use the coupon, attend the theatre, and most importantly, come back on a regular basis? This remains to be seen. I’ll track the results of this coupon experiment and also check on the marketing efforts of other theatres in town in future reports.